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Rohingya, an ethnic minority of a small south Asian country Myanmar, previously known as Burma, is under the most horrible threat of genocide in contemporary world. It is very significant that Myanmar is the home of more than 100 ethnic group and yet only Rohingya people are subjected to such brutality which make the headlines of world’s largest newspapers and T.V channels. To understand this whole scenario, it is very important to understand the history of Rohingya and how they are connected to the pre-independence freedom movement of Pakistan. It is very surprising for many people in Pakistan to know that history of Rohingya is somewhat a part of history of Pakistan and to understand, we have to go in to the time of Mughal dynasty which ruled subcontinent.

History of Rohingya from the beginning

Shazada Muhammad Shah Shuja was the second child of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal, one for which he built Taj Mahal. Shah Shuja was the governer of Bengal was known for his extraordinary interest in the development of the region. When the emperor Shah Jahan felt ill, a tug of war for the throne began among his sons – Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh. Shah Shuja entitled himself as the emperor and went on to fight his brother Dara Shikoh at the Battle of Bahadupur. Shuja was beaten in the fierce contest due to which he retreated back to Rajmahal for reinforcement. While Shuja was gaining his strength back to go and fight for throne yet another time, Aurangzeb had already won the battle against Dara and executed him. Aurangzeb’s army and Shuja’s forces came head to head at Battle of Khajwa where Shuja was beaten yet another time and this time he retreated to Bengal. After a series of resistance against the emperor Aurangzeb, Shah Shuja finally gave up and went on to take shelter in Arakan, which is where the Rohingya conflict is persistent today.

As Shuja and his companions arrived in Arakan, they were receive by, then, king  Sanda Thudhamm who promised the travelers that he will provide them with ship and other necessary reinforcement for their voyage to Mecca, which later on revealed to be a trap as Shuja and company was looted by the king. Later on, emperor Aurangzeb sent his forces to capture Chittagong, which was the part of Arakan back then and hence the link for travel and trade was established between Mughals and Bengalis to Burma.

When East India company arrived in subcontinent, they annexed Burma and made it the part of Hindustan. After the failed revolt of 1857, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was captured and kept in a prison in Rangoon, a city of Burma. A large number of Indians, mostly Bengalis, were inhabited by the East India Company in Burma, known as British-Indians. It can be thought as the foundation stone for the history of Rohingya. In 1937, Burma was separated from Hindustan or United India by the British government on administrative bases. In World War II, Japan occupied Burma and this occupation was supported by the local Buddhist population of Burma. To fight against the Japanese forces Britain, which was the part of alliance against Germany, Japan and Italy in World War II, provided armed and ammunition to the British-Indians which they had settled there earlier. As reward for the resistance against the Japanese, these people, majority of which were Bengali Muslims, were promised a separate state for themselves.  But the truth was that they were a mere mercenary force used by the Britain and not even paid for their service at the end, the promise never became reality.

Rohingya and Pakistan Movement

At the end of World War II, these Muslims made contact with the Muslim League leadership of that time and began to take active part in the freedom movement from the platform of “Northern Arakan Muslim League”. In May 1946, a delegation of muslims of Arakan met Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. They asked him to make Arakan as the part of Pakistan state too, since the culture and language of the people living in Arakan had extra ordinary similarity to Chittagong, which later became the part of East-Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947 and 1971 respectively.   But since no such arrangement was under discussion with the British government before, Quaid e Azam refrained from any false commitment.



History of Rohingya afterwards

Burma got freedom in 1948, a group of muslims announced to take insurgency as tool for freedom of Arakan. Due to pre-freedom ties between Muslim League and Northern Arakan Muslim League, Burmese government alleged that these rebels have training camps in east Pakistan, which resulted in tentions between the state of Pakistan and Burma. In 1962, when Burmese army took control of the government, they halted this armed resistance finally. Year 1982 marked as the starting point of vengeance against the rohingya muslims. Their citizenship was revoked, they were thrown out of the jobs, they were prohibited from using the facilities provided by the government for the people of Burma or Myanmar as what now it was called. Mass migration of Rohingya muslims started as a result of it to neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, India and Thailand. By the year 2012 and onwards, the Myanmar government decided to deal with these Rohingya people with more aggression and that is where the genocide started. In response to this aggression, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) targeted military personals and installments. Myanmar presented these attacks as a reason to international community for its actions against the Rohingya people. According to Myanmar government, leader of ARSA Atta Ullah was born in Karachi and was brought up in Saudi Arabia. Recently, ARSA declared cease fire for a period of one month and asked the government to do the same.

Rohingya genocide is one of the most serious humanitarian crisis after the Rwandan genocide. It is a question mark on the conscience of world in general along with “enlightened and civilized” west in particular.

Note: Renowned Journalist of Pakistan Hamid Mir‘s recent column in Daily Jang Newspaper has been significantly helpful in the process of research for this article. 


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About The Author

Mohammed Akash

The writer is a student, and has interest in Global Politics, Culture, Strategic Security and Military doctrines.

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