Myanmar’s Turks, Mughals and Bengalis who came



Myanmar’s independence has been afflicted with the ongoing
ethno-religious conflicts between the central government, minority groups and
their adversaries. While there are ample amount of literature on the situation
of Rohingya crisis, much of the studies are based on the 2012 violence in west
Myanmar specifically in the state of Rakhine. The central government has had
its fair share of issues with the ethnic minorities; however the continuous
conflicts between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Budhhists have been the most
stigmatized in recent times. According to the report of the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA, 2017), at least 800,000 Muslims
live in Rakhine state of Western Myanmar/Burma, where majority identify
themselves as Rohingya (CPD, 2017). The matter caught the eyes of international
communities and media groups due to the vastness of the issue on humanitarian
and ethical grounds as well as its berserk upheaval. (Kipgen, 2013)


In order to comprehend this particular scenario, it is of paramount
importance that one must understand the term Rohingya and its origin, history
and profundity. The term ‘Rohingya’ refers to an ethnic group, consisting people
of Islamic faith and also some other religions in small quantities. Although
these residents from the Rakhine state identify themselves with the term ‘Rohingya’,
(the term has been widely used by the international community e.g. United
Nations, World Health Organisations, etc.), the Myanmar government officially
identifies them as illegal Bengali migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, which
also happens to be the general perception of the Myanmar people (Kipgen,
2012a). The fact is that Rohingya is not included among the 135 ethnic races of
Myanmar recognized by the government. The origin of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
has been a sensitive and controversial subject. Some claim that the Rohingyas
have lived in Myanmar for centuries and they are the descendants of Muslim
Arabs, Moors, Persians, Turks, Mughals and Bengalis who came mostly as traders,
warriors and saints through overland and sea routes (Chowdhury, 2006). The Arakan Rohingya National
Organisation has said, “Rohingyas have been living in Arakan from time
immemorial,” referring to the area now known as Rakhine. During the more
than 100 years of British rule (1824-1948), there was a significant amount of
migration of labourers to what is now known as Myanmar from today’s India and
Bangladesh. Because the British administered Myanmar as a province of India,
such migration was considered internal, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). After
independence, the government viewed the migration that took place during
British rule as “illegal, and it is on this basis that they refuse
citizenship to the majority of Rohingya,” HRW said in a 2000 report. This
has led many Buddhists to consider the Rohingya to be Bengali, rejecting the
term Rohingya as a recent invention, created for political reasons.

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