In recent deaths, five Rohingya refugee children are believed to have drowned as a boat carrying them sank on the morning of 6th September, there is fear that there could be many more causalities as the boat sank near mouth of a river named Naf dividing Bangladesh and Burma’s disturbed state of Rakhine.
Rohingyas are believed to be one of world’s most persecuted communities. They are a group of ethnic Muslims who have been living for a very long time in Myanmar which is a Buddhist dominated nation. Presently, close to 11 lakh Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar. Their native language is Rohingya and it is distinct to other languages used in Myanmar officially. They are not among Myanmar’s ethnic groups and have not been granted citizenship, and this has reduced their status to a homeless mass. They have been denied citizenship of Myanmar and have been looked upon as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
On 25th August 2017, Rohingya militants who were armed with knives and bombs brutally hit many posts of police in northern Rakhine (a state in Myanmar). More than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims ran off their homes ever since this incidence took place in order to escape further attacks, following a military counter-attack operation against Rohingya militants.
Acts of violence have been going on since then, and have resulted in the displacement of civilians of both communities and a massacre of the Rohingyas. The authorities of Burma feel that the death toll is approximately 400; most of those killed are believed to be militants.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is a terrorist organization which is holed up in the Rakhine state in northern part of Burma and is said to have carried on the initial attacks on police posts. This is the same area where the Rohingya community has encountered the hate attacks by police and army.
Violence emerges every now and then between Rohingyas and the Burmese army, but armed Rohingya insurgency has grown since 2016. ARSA was formerly called by different names like Harakah al-Yaqin and has been actively involved in killing of many dozens of police officers and security personnel. ARSA’s aim is to “defend, salvage and protect” the Rohingya Muslim community against suppression of their own men by the state. They feel that their stand is one of self-defense. This organization rejects being called a terrorist organization, as there are claims from its leadership that they do not attack the common citizens. However, they are well-known for attacking common citizens as well.
This terrorist organization made its biggest attack in the last week of August which forced the security forces to go for a severe backlash, resulting in the movement of Rohingyas off the state. According to an estimate, more than 146,000 refugees crossed the border to move into neighboring country of Bangladesh and around 80 % of those who moved are believed to be women and children. The scale of destruction and violence in this year’s occurrence exceeds that of last year by a huge gap.
The roots of this conflict go back to 1947, when a group of Rohingya leaders met Mohammad Ali Jinnah and appealed to him to annex Buthidaung and Maungdaw, which were two townships of Burma into the newly created East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
After a few months, the North Arakan Muslim League was created in Akyab (present-day Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state), the same demand was made again to Mohammad Ali Jinnah who declined the proposal saying that he would prefer not to interfere with the internal affairs of another nation. Burma gained its independence from the British in January 1948 and the same proposal was made to its newly elected government to concede the Muslim dominated areas to newly created Burma but it was declined by the Burmese parliament.
Mujahideen separatist movements aroused as the result of these happenings and went on to make attacks on the Burmese police and military establishments and personnel. Several counter operations were initiated by the Burmese authorities against the militants and separatists. The different separatist movement shaped the creation of ARSA which has been allegedly supported by dreadful terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamaat-e-Islami and other Mujahidden organisations.