Rohingyas victims of ethnic cleansing: Myanmar junta looks for fall guy

Maswood Alam Khan | Published: September 09, 2017 19:45:08 | Updated: October 23, 2017 01:15:17

An unprecedented ethnic-cleansing campaign, almost akin to a pogrom, has been unleashed against Rohingya people in Myanmar. According to corroborated reports published in newspapers all over the world and according to thousands of eye-witnesses, the military junta in Myanmar have perpetrated the gravest atrocities on them.


In the last fortnight alone, more than 270,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have been compelled to flee from their ancestral homes in Myanmar's Rakhine state into Bangladesh to escape ruthless barbarities.



Many had to run away with only the clothes they were wearing-threadbare dresses, shirts with many holes and patches, torn 'lungies' baring their legs and buttocks, women's blouses held together by safety pins hardly covering their bosoms.



Men and women toted impossibly large bundles of food and cheap household items atop their heads---their necks kept stiff, their bodies subtly shifting to keep the parcels stationary. Tiny babies were swaddled on laps of their mothers or on pans suspended by a pole on shoulders of their fathers. Old mothers tightly strapped to the backs of their sons were either dead or barely alive. The disabled suspended on hammock-like sacks were seen carried by balancing poles on shoulders of two persons.



Among their precious cargos were sacks of rice, dirty plastic bottles with cooking oil, a few plastic bowls mostly cracked, tin suitcases with broken hinges replaced by rope, mattresses rolled around, Jerri-cans for hauling water and plastic jugs for storing drinking water.



They could not afford to be tired and take rest as they were running away from a hellfire. They were all on their long and perilous expedition to an uncertain destination. They don't know whether they were jumping from one frying pan to another or to a safe hand. Many have died on their journeys by sea and land and buried in graves which will never be identifiable.



Those who survived offered harrowing accounts of rape, torture, assault, mutilation, looting, and destruction of their homes. These attacks reveal a systematic effort carried out to empty parts of Myanmar of Rohingya Muslims.



It is impossible to know just how many Rohingya civilians have been killed, but the indicators are staggering. Almost all the refugees, when interviewed by Press or volunteers, said they had witnessed someone close to them being killed. They keep narrating terrifying stories and pointing to the long miles of lands they had to walk, sitting down, looking upward at sky, begging invisible God's mercy. Tear has become their daily lotion. Their personal struggles, losses and disappointments, their pains, their dreams will never be known nor their nostalgic feelings about their way of life - the aroma of their soil, the breeze that ruffled the leaves of their trees back at their homes.



Dead bodies have washed up after boats sank attempting to cross the Naaf river that divides Myanmar and Bangladesh. One single image of a lifeless body of a young Syrian boy lying face-down on a beach near a Turkish resort town shocked the entire world and touched millions of hearts to open their doors to Syrian refugees. But the full horror of human tragedy unfolding in Myanmar and the indescribable plights of refugees living subhuman life in makeshift camps in Bangladesh is not touching any heart of any great leader of any great power!



Bangladesh, being a poor country itself, has offered help to these destitute in hundreds of camps where about 400,000 refugees are living.  The camps are packed with hungry and emaciated humans, just like sardines stuffed in tins, leaving no tiniest space for any new arrival. New refugees are spending days and nights under the open sky with no shelter from monsoon rains.



Thousands of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar who somehow managed to come to Bangladesh find themselves lucky as they have not been killed. But they are stunned, speechless. Words fail them when they try to explain what they had witnessed back home.



Years back it was the military junta in Myanmar who first started atrocities on Rohingyas, who, as Muslims, are also loathed by many of Myanmar's Buddhist majority. Denied citizenship in their ancestral homes in Myanmar and horrified by rape, torture and murder, thousands, maybe millions, of refugees had already fled to Bangladesh, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Thailand, where their fate is still uncertain. And, those who could not manage to cross the borders are left behind to put up with inhuman, concentration camp-style restrictions. They can't marry without permission, married women are not free to conceive, and can't even run small shops for livelihood. Rohingyas can't even go out at night as there was and still is a 6pm-to-8am curfew.



There had always been a steady stream of Rohingya refugees to safer places outside of Myanmar. But, on August 25, some Rohingya militants allegedly launched a series of coordinated attacks on non-Rohingya population that prompted the law-enforcement agencies, as claimed by Myanmar authority, to launch a military-led crackdown. This sparked the current unprecedented exodus of Rohingya refugees.



Who were those Rohingya militants, who directed or financed them, and what motive they had in launching such daring attacks knowing full well that any assault on any non-Rohyngyan would simply imperil the entire Rohingya population?



There could be two motives: open an opportunity to recruit terrorists out of the persecuted and/or slap a terrorism label on the faces of some Rohingyas for a pretext to root out the rest of them from the soil of Myanmar once and for all. Possibility of ISIS or any other radical organisations to swoop in there in search of potential recruits cannot be ruled out as every murder, every rape, every torture on Muslims anywhere in the world is a boon for the broader jihadist movement. But the second possibility of slapping false terrorism labels on Rohingya militants and then launching an industrial-scale genocide against the whole Rohyngya community is far more plausible, and convenient for the military junta in Myanmar, than the first one.



Slapping opponents with 'Terrorism Label' is not new. Many governments have been using the term 'terrorism' very freely to refer to their political opponents for their own interests. Some despotic governments are prone to label as terrorism all acts---violent or not---committed by their political opponents. The terrorist label is a powerful means to reach political goals, especially against Muslims, because of the emotional impact it has on the audience as well as the memories it provokes from past manifestations of violence.


Around 2,500 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama had discovered how to bring happiness into the world and introduced Buddhism. Buddhism's one of the first teachings: "One must not deliberately kill any living creature either by committing the act oneself, instructing others to kill, or approving of or participating in acts of killing. To completely abstain from the act of killing---human or beast---directly and indirectly, eat only pure vegetarian food."


No sane person should believe that all the Buddhists in Myanmar hate Muslims and enjoy killing humans. Killing is not a teaching Buddhism has taught them.


Let us wish: "May the glorious light of Buddhism be shed on Rohingyan Muslims!"




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