Rohingyas need urgent eye care access: Study

Home > Health > Published:  11:50 AM, 20 April 2020

Rohingyas need urgent eye care access: Study

Asian Age Online

Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A study of Orbis International has found that the Rohingya refugees need urgent eye care access.

A study has found that the number of people with operable cataract is three- to six-fold higher among working-aged Rohingya refugees, who have taken shelter in southern Bangladesh, than the host population.

It also found that among the more than 68,000 people who received services during the study, the vast majority of vision loss was due to refractive error and unoperated cataract.

Orbis International conducted the study and the findings were published in a special issue of peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS Medicine recently.

The report demonstrated the demand for comprehensive eye services in refugee settings and providing a roadmap for other organisations doing similar work.

It observed that the burden among adults in their peak working years — 18 to 29 – “was especially noteworthy”.Cataract surgery is among the most cost-effective interventions in healthcare, according to a World Bank report.

A random sampling of Rohingyas who had cataract removed showed excellent surgical outcomes when benchmarked against a large online database of other global users, using an application co-developed by Orbis.

Following an outbreak of violence in August 2017, over 742,000 Rohingya fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, making Kutupalong refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar the world’s largest.

Since February 2018, Orbis and partner Cox’s Bazar Baitush Sharaf Hospital have been providing vision screenings, glasses, and cataract surgery for children and adults in the Rohingya population and surrounding host communities with support from the Qatar Fund for Development.

The Orbis’s study, which represents one of the largest published datasets on refugee eye health, highlighted the heavy burden of eye disease among the Rohingya, but even more importantly, their unexpectedly high demand for service.

“The demand for eye care services was significantly higher than we anticipated,” said Dr. Munir Ahmed, Country Director of Orbis International Bangladesh. He said, “It is perhaps not surprising that we saw high volumes of patients among these chronically underserved displaced and host communities who had unoperated cataract or who needed glasses but did not have them.

“But the very high uptake of service in this program – fully 60% of those aged 60 and over in the targeted Rohingya community – is truly extraordinary when you think about the many health priorities they face. It underscores the potential for eye care to build resilience in such refugee populations.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that the global number of displaced people has reached 70 million, the highest on record.

While addressing life-threatening conditions, such as infectious disease outbreaks and malnutrition, remains the greatest priority in humanitarian response, Orbis’s study responds to a growing understanding that addressing non-life-threatening needs can improve the resilience of displaced communities, helping them better survive and thrive under demanding conditions.

The study also underscored how improving vision among host communities not only enhances their own well-being, but can also help build their capacity to support displaced populations in their midst.

Orbis’s work in southeast Bangladesh is an extension of a partnership between Orbis and the Qatar Fund for Development. Thanks to their vital support, Orbis has been able to work with local partners to deliver more than 127,000 eye screenings and nearly 52,000 treatments to the Rohingya population and host communities in two years.

Orbis’s sight-saving work in these vulnerable communities builds on a long history of collaboration in Bangladesh, including providing training for eye care professionals on paediatric ophthalmology as well as the treatment of cataract, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and more.

Source: https://dailyasianage.com/news/227010/rohingyas-need-urgent-eye-care-access-study

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Protecting Rohingya community from Corona virus

Home > Special Supplement > Published:  01:24 AM, 02 April 2020

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie joins in a press briefing as she visits Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb 5, 2018. -Reuters

Barrister Fariha Afroz

The entire world is facing a tough time due to Coronavirus pandemic. Around 200 countries and territories have reported a total of 664,941 coronavirus confirmed cases and a death toll of 30,894 deaths. Bangladesh has confirmed 51 cases of Coronavirus infection and 5 deaths till date.

World’s largest refugee camp Kutupalong refugee camp is in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Rohingya refugees that fled from ethnic and religious persecution in neighboring Myanmar are the inhabitant of this refugee camp. No Coronavirus cases have been reported yet among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials.

In last 2 months, over 70,000 people called IEDCR hotlines and only 1,100 have been tested. Testing is severely limited, and refugees are rarely a priority. We cannot say no one is infected in the refugee camp, rather, we should say we have been failed to detect any Corona patient because of the lack of testing.

As developed countries like United States and Italy are struggling with mass outbreaks of the Corona virus, international health experts and aid workers are increasingly worried that the virus could devastate the world’s most vulnerable people. Coronavirus fear grips Rohingya camps in Bangladesh as the vulnerable conditions they are living in can be a perfect breeding ground for contagion.

Social Distancing: When the whole world is stressing to create social distance from the society in combating the Corona virus, there are more than a million Rohingya refugees who are living in 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar. World Health Organization (WHO) advised to keep 1 meter (3 feet) apart. However, up to 12 people live in each tent which is barely 10 square meters (12 square yards). This population density is making social distancing impossible for refugees.

Maintaining Hygiene: Refugee camps are packed with traumatized and undernourished people with limited access to health care and basic sanitation. Most of them sleep on muddy floor spreading plastic paper in the tent. Besides, the refugees are still struggling for clean drinking water and flowing water in toilets let alone masks, soaps or hand sanitizers. People can’t even wash their kids, let alone wash their hands, said one of the refugees.

Steps taken to Protect Rohingya Community: In Cox’s Bazar, emergency awareness measures have been in place for several weeks. More than 1,400 refugee community health volunteers work within the camps to ensure key messages are shared regularly with the refugee population.

These include systematic health prevention and promotion messages, Donovan said. “Besides emergency medical teams, more than 100 national and international partners are supporting the health sector in Cox’s Bazar”, Bercaru said. Almost 300 health staffs have received training in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) so far and up to 250 clinical focal points of health facilities are receiving refresher trainings on Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS).

Aid agencies have been raising awareness among members of the Rohingya community about personal and food hygiene measures to evade infection. World Vision’s staff members have been raising awareness about proper hand-washing since the beginning of the response in 2017 through their learning centers for children and through many other programmes in the camps.

World Vision, in partnership with UNICEF, is distributing soap to Rohingya refugees to help prevent Corona virus (COVID-19). Each family receives 10 pieces of bath soap (100 grams per piece) and five bars of laundry soap (130 grams per piece) each month for washing hands, bathing and washing clothes.

Hand- washing stations equipped with soap and water have been set up at all their field distribution points and camp facilities, including WFP food assistance points, women’s safe spaces, learning centers and multi-purpose centers.

In one of his interviews Md Mahbub Alam Talukder, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) said that they have already collected sufficient testing kits to detect coronavirus for Rohingya camps. Health officials are ready to isolate people showing coronavirus symptoms, said Louise Donovan, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman in Cox’s Bazar.In health centers inside the camps, more than 64 beds were designated to quarantine anyone tested positive.

The health centers, jointly run by international aid agencies, also have some empty seats to quarantine patients if needed. More than 400 protection community outreach workers will also support message dissemination, as well as other volunteers and community leaders. Communication is ongoing through radio, volunteers and community leaders.

More Steps need be taken to ensure the safety of the Rohingya Community. The aid workers should spread more awareness among the refugees regarding the precautionary steps. They should also educate the refugees on how they can spot the symptoms of the infected person. It is also very important for them to inform the health workers if they suspect someone with the symptom and isolate them till the test result discovered.

Where they are hardly getting any clean water to drink, hygiene cannot be ensured without supplying adequate clean water. Many rights workers are volunteering at refugee camps to build awareness on how to stay safe with limited water supply. But the government should look into this matter to help them to get enough supply of water to keep them safe. They should be provided with adequate masks, gloves and other sanitation items.

Lockdowns imposed by governments to slow the virus’s spread have become punishment for refugees who struggle to find food as they are very much dependent on others for their rations. Steps need to be taken by government as well as the aid workers to ensure enough food stocked for them to survive during this crisis.

In emergency situation, people keep themselves updated and take necessary safety precautions mostly relying on information available via the internet, radio, television. Therefore, the bar on internet access in refugee camps should be lifted considering the prevailing situation.

There should be a fixed number of testing kits reserved for the refugees. In the cities, people have more facilities and can keep themselves isolated from the society which will eventually slow down the spread of the Corona virus. Whereas, the refugee camps are overcrowded, they don’t have that option available.

Therefore, any person with the symptoms needs to be isolated and tested immediately, otherwise it will become uncontrollable. Moreover, adequate equipped medical staffs are needed to aid them as they are in the most vulnerable position.

If we think this is a big issue in developed countries, we haven’t seen anything yet if Covid gets into the refugee population. The Coronavirus could rip through these camps with devastation speed and mortality. While there are currently no suspected cases of Covid-19 in the camps, the UNHCR takes the situation very seriously and is closely monitoring.

If the virus is present, the camps are profoundly ill-equipped to handle it. In a developing country like Bangladesh, where the best medicals of it are left with very few test kits and the doctors are not being provided with the required PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), if the Corona virus breaks out in one of their camps everyone will get affected by it.

The Corona virus, which has no vaccine or agrees upon treatment regimen for Covid-19, the respiratory disease it causes, could be even more devastating. It would be more devastating than the insurgency that brought them here.

Barrister Fariha Afroz is a columnist and Associate at FM Associates.

Source: https://dailyasianage.com/news/225085/protecting-rohingya-community-from-corona-virus

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Collectively we win or otherwise we fail

Home > Special Supplement   Published:  01:21 AM, 02 April 2020 Last Update: 02:19 AM, 02 April 2020

Collectively we win or otherwise we fail Government does not have Aladdin’s magic lamp

Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed

COVID-19 is a novel corona virus that emerged in China in 2019. On 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed COVID-19 and on 30 January 2020, the Director-General of WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International concern (PHEIC).

The corona virus COVID-19 is affecting 200 countries and territories around the world and 2 international conveyances: the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan, and the Holland America’s MS Zaandam cruise ship. Globally there are 786, 907 cases of Corona virus and 37,840 deaths. 1, 65, 892 people have recovered globally from Corona virus (as of March 31, 2020, Source: Worldometers).

According to Best Healthcare in the World by Population 2020, healthcare system of France appears to be on top of the list of 100 countries and then comes Italy. Singapore ranked 6th, Spain ranked 7th, United Kingdom ranked 18th, United States ranked 37th, Thailand ranked 47th, Malaysia ranked 49th, Bangladesh ranked 88th among 100 countries of the world (Source: World Population Review).

Now coming back to the corona virus pandemic, Worldometers data suggests that USA has the highest number of corona virus cases, which is 1, 64,266 and the number of total deaths in USA reached at 3,170. 101, 739 Covid-19 cases reported in Italy, which has the 2nd highest number.

And 3rd is the Spain which has 87, 956 corona virus cases.  In France, which has the best healthcare system, a total of 44, 550 Covid-19 cases have been reported. 22,141 cases of Coronavirus reported in UK. In Canada, 7,474 Covid-19 cases have been reported and 92 people have died due to Coronavirus.

The number of Corona virus cases is 4,557 in Australia, 2626 in Malaysia, 1865 in Pakistan, 1651 in Thailand, 1414 in Indonesia, 1251 in India, 879 in Singapore, 51 in Bangladesh.

The number of deaths from Corona virus is highest in Italy. The number of death from Corona virus cases is 11,591 in Italy, 7,716 in Spain, 3,305 in China, 3,170 in USA, 3024 in France, 1408 in UK, 122 in Indonesia, 22 in Canada and 5 in Bangladesh (Source: Worldometers as of March 31, 2020).

In the health system of Bangladesh, the Government or public sector is the first key actor which by constitution is responsible not only for policy and regulation but for provision of comprehensive health services, including financing and employment of health staff. Bangladesh has been growing through a health crisis for a long time.

About 3% of Bangladesh’s GDP is spent on health, out of which the government contribution is about 1.1%. In term of dollar, the total health expenditure in the country is about US$ 12 per capita per annum, of which the public health expenditure is around US$ 4.

In Bangladesh, historically, supply-side financing of health care services has been the backbone strategy for improving the access of poor households to essential health care services. (Source: National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, Bangladesh, March 2020).

Bangladesh is currently fighting against COVID-19 pandemic with limited financial resources and a legacy of poor healthcare infrastructure. In an attempt to curb the spread of Corona virus, the government of Bangladesh has announced nationwide holiday from March 26 to April 4, which may further be extended until April 9.

During the period of general holidays, army is enforcing social distancing across the nation. When the first batch of mass returnees arrived from China in February, they were all quarantined at the Ashkana Hajj Camp in Dhaka. In mid-March when the second batch of foreign returnees-over a hundred and forty Bangladeshis evacuated from Italy-arrived, were allowed to leave with the promise of “home quarantine.”

Bangladesh updated “Infectious Diseases Prevention, Control and Elimination Act, 2018” on communicable diseases. The Act provides that “keep or quarantine any suspected person infected with an infectious disease, at a specific hospital, temporary hospital, establishment or home”.

This law empowers government in notification, isolation, quarantine, sample collection and testing in emerging diseases. The law forms an advisory committee, headed by Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare including Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.

The Bangladeshi research institute spearheading the fight to test and detect coronavirus is the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), a body under the Ministry of Health. IEDCR Director Meerjady Sabrina is claiming that Bangladesh has been following the WHO guideline and doing enough tests as WHO is repeatedly asking countries to test as many people as possible to get an exact bearing on the nature of infection and the geographic concentration.

However, several media reports quoted experts saying that Bangladesh is still not equipped with the necessary health care facilities and support to deal with serious cases of the novel coronavirus. Many have expressed concern that there is a serious lack of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with facilities with ventilators, shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers, testing kits and other resources, including a national fund to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Bangladesh is facing these challenges because of a weak Health Ministry. There is a serious crisis of ICU beds prepared for patients and necessary training and supply of PPE to physicians and health care associates,” Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi public health activist and founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, a rural health care organization with a modern medical facility, (Source: Anadolu Agency, 29 March 2020). According to some media reports, some local hospitals, including in the capital Dhaka, issued a notification for doctors to procure their own PPE due to a crisis of insufficient supply.

The Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) in statement criticized the way the government allowed returnees from abroad to travel to their villages as fears mount of a heightened outbreak. Moreover, it is also being reported that in the last two months, over eight lakh people had called the Covid-19 hotlines for tests.

IEDCR hotlines alone received over 70 thousand calls. But only less than 1,100 have been tested and 51 positive cases have been found. The report suggests that the reason behind this low number of coronavirus cases in Bangladesh is the low number of tests of Covid-19 (Source: The Business Standard, 29 March 2020).

After the first reported case of infection, Bangladesh did not report any new cases for the next five days. Then on March 14 two cases were reported. The next day no cases were reported. New patients were detected in between March 16 to March 24. But then on March 25 & 26, no new cases were reported. Another new COVID-19 case in the country was reported on 30 March 2020.

Professor Benzir Ahmed, former director of the health directorate (disease control) said we are missing the scope to detect infected people while raising the risk of spreading the virus (Source: The Business Standard).

It is important to note that South Korea has become an example of containing the virus by conducting extensive tests immediately after the outbreak. It conducted more than three lakh tests. More than six persons every one thousand people were tested. Virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, also expressed concern over the small number of tests and warned that the battle against Covid-19 could be lost if testing capacity were not increased (Source: The Business Standard).

Now, let’s look into the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh through another lens.

The government of Bangladesh has formulated National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, Bangladesh, March 2020 (Plan March 2020) which states that the Government shall prevent entry of COVID19 case in Bangladesh from affected countries, limit human-to-human transmission including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers, prevent transmission & amplification events, and enhance infection prevention & control in community and health care settings; identify, isolate and care for patients early, communicate critical risk and event information to the communities and counter misinformation and minimize social and economic impact through multisectoral partnerships.

It also provides that Bangladesh will ensure emergency contingency protocols to support quarantine according to the “Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act 2018. In accordance with Article 32 of the International Health Regulation, suitable infrastructure will be selected for quarantine.

Accommodation, food and other necessary supplies will be provided. Ministry of disaster management and relief will be engaged along with other stakeholders for this.  Appropriate communication channels shall be established to avoid panic.

The Principal Scientific Officer (PSO) at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Dr. A. S. M. Alamgir, said: “We are preparing doctors and other necessary initiatives according to our national preparedness policy, and the hospitals are getting prepared under the policy to deal with any possible situation”.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque in a news conference in Dhaka said that the government has been working to increase the number of ICU bed for corona patient to 100 shortly and will gradually increase ICU units to 400.

Bangladesh has screened over 650,000 people in its international airports, ports and land borders, though there were only 28,483 people in quarantine and 47 in isolation, as of March 28. The country has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths, according to the Directorate of Health. According to the country’s health ministry, the government has been working on right path to address the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh. The government has so far allocated Tk 9 crore in cash and 31,000 metric tons of rice for the low-income people across the country as they remained without any work following the restrictive measures taken to tackle the corona virus. Both the financial and food assistance are being allocated through the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry.

According to the statistics of the National Disaster Response Coordination Centre, the government has so far allocated Tk 88,972,264 and 31,217 metric tons of rice for the low-income people in 64 districts, according to a PID handout (Source: The New Nation, 31 March 2020).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 31 March 2020 said that the extension of holidays will be done to ensure that there will be no more death from COVID-19. “We`re taking this decision for the welfare of all,“ she added.

The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented global public health challenge. It is vital to have easy access to good, clear data and a good understanding of what can and cannot be said based on the available data, in order for governments, organisations and individuals to respond to it effectively. As this is a new challenge for the world, every government is struggling to fight against Covid-19.

I understand that we have legitimate concern over the spread of corona virus in our country. We also have the right to have opinions on government’s actions taken to prevent spread of corona virus. However, we must also need to understand that there is no Aladdin’s magic lamp for the government to win the battle against Covid-19. It depends on us also if we would win the battle or not. Let’s not point our fingers always at government.

Let’s work together for the betterment of our nation, country and the entire humanity. We can’t win the battle against Covid-19 without being co-operative and tolerant. We must learn to appreciate to move forward. It also provides that Bangladesh will ensure emergency contingency protocols to support quarantine according to the “Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act 2018. In accordance with Article 32 of the International Health Regulation, suitable infrastructure will be selected for quarantine.

Accommodation, food and other necessary supplies will be provided. Ministry of disaster management and relief will be engaged along with other stakeholders for this.  Appropriate communication channels shall be established to avoid panic.

The Principal Scientific Officer (PSO) at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Dr. A. S. M. Alamgir, said: “We are preparing doctors and other necessary initiatives according to our national preparedness policy, and the hospitals are getting prepared under the policy to deal with any possible situation”.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque in a news conference in Dhaka said that the government has been working to increase the number of ICU bed for corona patient to 100 shortly and will gradually increase ICU units to 400. Bangladesh has screened over 650,000 people in its international airports, ports and land borders, though there were only 28,483 people in quarantine and 47 in isolation, as of March 28. The country has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths, according to the Directorate of Health.

According to the country’s health ministry, the government has been working on right path to address the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh. The government has so far allocated Tk 9 crore in cash and 31,000 metric tons of rice for the low-income people across the country as they remained without any work following the restrictive measures taken to tackle the corona virus. Both the financial and food assistance are being allocated through the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry.

According to the statistics of the National Disaster Response Coordination Centre, the government has so far allocated Tk 88,972,264 and 31,217 metric tons of rice for the low-income people in 64 districts, according to a PID handout (Source: The New Nation, 31 March 2020). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 31 March 2020 said that the extension of holidays will be done to ensure that there will be no more death from COVID-19.

“We`re taking this decision for the welfare of all,“ she added.

The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented global public health challenge. It is vital to have easy access to good, clear data and a good understanding of what can and cannot be said based on the available data, in order for governments, organisations and individuals to respond to it effectively. As this is a new challenge for the world, every government is struggling to fight against Covid-19.

I understand that we have legitimate concern over the spread of corona virus in our country. We also have the right to have opinions on government’s actions taken to prevent spread of corona virus. However, we must also need to understand that there is no Aladdin’s magic lamp for the government to win the battle against Covid-19. It depends on us also if we would win the battle or not.

Let’s not point our fingers always at government. Let’s work together for the betterment of our nation, country and the entire humanity. We can’t win the battle against Covid-19 without being co-operative and tolerant. We must learn to appreciate to move forward.

  Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed is an Advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court. She is working as Junior Partner in FM Associates, Bangladesh.

Source: https://dailyasianage.com/news/225084/collectively-we-win-or-otherwise-we-fail

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Myanmar launches report riddled with untruths

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)

Press Release: 16 January 2020

Myanmar launches report riddled with untruths

 On January 8, 2020 the Government of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a report titled “Rakhine State: A Snapshot of Myanmar’s current efforts for peace and reconciliation.” The 15-page report makes blatantly false claims that Myanmar has taken measures to promote peace in the Rakhine. In the report, Myanmar claims that it is addressing five large thematic areas which include access to education, preventing sexual violence, addressing hate speech (fostering inter-faith dialogue), reforming the security sector, and repatriation. But Rohingya continue to be subjected to harsh restrictions on their basic rights and freedoms.

Education

Educational measures do not include Rohingya children. Specifically as noted in this post at Rohingya Khobor – the Child Rights Law does not even recognize Rohingya children. While there are not enough schools for the Rohingya children even for elementary classes, most of the schools in Rohingya villages stand in ruin or are purposefully abandoned. The Buddhist teachers are mostly absent in classes as they are not interested to teach the Rohingya children.

The Rohingya students are unable to attend government schools in detached non-Rohingya places for lack of security or protection. Particularly the Muslim students living in IDP camps and ghettos are at great risk. Since many years the Rohingya students have been barred from higher studies in country’s colleges, universities and seats of learning despite all merits for admission. Lots of Rohingya students had to give up their studies although some of the students try to rely on limited distance learning courses amidst various restrictions and difficulties, where quality education and professional courses are unavailable even for the meritorious students.

Sexual Violence

Myanmar has done nothing to address the systemic sexual violence that is perpetrated by the Tatmadaw as part of its genocidal campaign towards the Rohingya. This behaviour is repeated in other states throughout Myanmar. Further, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has complimented itself on its report “” The Situation of Muslim Women and Girls in Northern Rakhine State” sent to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), yet did not address the Committee’s pointed statement, “Myanmar’s continued denial of the accusations of acts of violence and sexual violence against Muslim women in Rakhine state by its security forces, despite documented evidence of mass atrocities, including widespread killings, torture and rape, as well as indications that sexual violence was orchestrated and perpetuated by Myanmar’s armed forces, guard police and militias.”  As noted during the December 2019 International Court of Justice proceedings, “the word ‘rape’ did not once pass the lips of the agent.” The leadership of Myanmar has shown a blatant disregard for the sexual violence repeatedly exhibited towards the Rohingya people.

Hate speech

The current iterations of the hate speech laws are called into question by civil society and the United Nations. Specifically, the drafting of the bills leave more power in the hands of those who are culprits of disseminating and encouraging hates towards Rohingya people. Just recently, Rohingya rights groups have asked the Myanmar Press Council to review the rhetoric, as it is tantamount to hate speech. Myanmar has allowed for the continued use of racist and pejorative terms, calling into question the sincerity of hate speech laws.  A new addition to the hate speech regime now includes reprisals which have been taken against human rights activists who have been advocating for justice for the Rohingya.

Security Sector

The Independent Commission of Inquiry is run by friends of Myanmar. The international community must call into question the veracity of the findings of the ICOE.  Among the panel members is a representative from Japan. Recently the Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama denied any wrongdoing in the Rakhine. Before the International Court of Justice, Aung San Suu Kyi stated that the four officers and three soldiers who were given a sentence to ten years in prison with hard labor. Yet she went on to state that they were “given a military pardon” and “many of us in Myanmar were unhappy with this pardon.”  The State Councilor has pointedly expressed the problem with the ICOE yet at the same time is defending the corrupt process.

Repatriation

Finally, Myanmar has noted in the report that two attempts at repatriation failed in 2018 and 2019, but does not discuss whether it has rectified the issues that caused the failure. Since that time, Myanmar has been brought into Court for its failure to uphold its legal obligations under the UN Genocide Convention. To date, by its own admission, the conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army has caused security issues, thus calling into question what measures it could be taking for a safe return. Furthermore, even if the conflict were to stop other issues continue to present problems – including but not limited to food security, landmines , and the land confiscations. The land confiscations highlight the propaganda machine of the government. One should consider if the Rohingya have no lands to return to – how can Myanmar truly claim it is closing the IDP camps?

ARNO calls upon the government of Myanmar to stop inaccurate reporting and conflating of statistics and programs which continue to mislead the international community with regards to the situation in the Rakhine. 

For more details, please contact:
Dr Mohammad Habib Ullah +1-4438158609 or email at info@rohingya.org

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Medieval Rohingya Poetry

Arts/Literature

Medieval Rohingya Poetry

in Arts/Literature — by Atindriyo Chakraborty — June 11, 2018

Medieval Mark-U City of Arakan

People from the Ra-khin countries are called Ra-khin-ye – or the Rohingya. In vernacular Bengali, we had learnt of the place as the Arakan Valleys that lie to the east of Bangladesh – beyond the southern hilly walls of Chittagong. We had surmised that the Arakan must have been a great melting pot of Buddhism, Islam and the tribes. Buddhist and Muslim rulers had lorded over those climes across the medieval times. The ancient past lies buried in totemic prehistory.

One might ask – how did we learn about this? As any high school student who has had Bangla as the first language in either of the two Bengals would attest – from ‘History of Literature’! It is indeed impossible to learn about medieval Bangla literature without learning about the great Rohingya poets and their poetries. Let us turn the clock by four hundred years.

In early 17th century, the Rohingya climes had Buddhist kings. It was also called the Kingdom of Mrauk U. According to  the ‘History of Buddhism in India’ of Lama Taranatha (1575-1634) , the ruler of the Rakhine countries – as of AD 1608 – was a Buddhist king named Chandravahana – literally, the Moon Rider! His father, Balasundara, had lorded over bigger climes – bringing many countries of ancient Ko-Ki – as Tibetans called Myanmar & Kamboja collectively in those days – under his scepter. Other than the land of the Rohingyas, he also held, in sway the land of the Chakmas – as Taranatha attests. Two of Balasundara’s sons – Chandravahana – the Moon Rider and Ativahana – the Superlative Rider – ruled over the climes of the Rohingya and the Chakma people respectively. Had this Balasundara, who is also accredited with the spread of the Mantra-Vehicle Buddhism across vast stretches of Myanmar, foreseen the plight of the subjects of these climes four centuries down the line – one wonders if he would have smiled or frowned.

For, besmirched by the power-mongering necessities of kingdoms, Buddhism had begun to lose its much avowed ‘karuna’. Rabindranath Tagore’s short story ‘Dalia’ is based on a king-tale from the Rakhine countries – where two princesses were put inside a sealed room and left there to die – for such was the manner in which death penalties were executed at behest of the medieval Buddhist kings of Arakan whose religion forbade bloodshed.

The jaati ways endogamy preached by the Hindus, too, had made deep inroads into Buddhist thoughts. Thus, even the Tibetan historian from the 17th century can recall only the Sanskritised names of the kings – forgetting their indigenous ones. The Buddhist kings of 17th century Arakan valley – in whose courts had flourished the great Rohingya poets – too – had taken to the mixed but heavily Sanskritic & Indo-Aryan Bangla language – shunning their own indigenous ones. Thus, we find the son and successor of the Moon Rider king of medieval Arakan Valley, Thiri Thu Thamma (AD 1622-1638), shunning his indigenous name and taking up a Sanskritised Bengali one Sri Sudharma – in all official accounts. The Buddhist kings of those climes considered Bengali as a ‘sacred’ language. Thus, the people, over time, began to lose their indigenous speeches to the aggressive entry of Bengali as the dominant language and culture. This, today, has become the very reason why the Rakhine countries bleed.

The Arakan valley, in the 17th century, was indeed a melting pot of many cultures. The Rakhinye kingdom had fought for independent sovereign identity against the sultans from the Hossain Shahi dynasty of medieval Bengal across the last one century. In fact, from around three and a half centuries between AD 1429 & AD 1785, the Kingdom of Mrauk U held fort as a sovereign entity.

Nonetheless Islamic influences had begun to come in ever since the Sufi Pir Shah Jalal from Persia, a contemporary to Hazarat Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusru, believed by many to be the 28th descendent of Prophet  Mohammed – had come preaching in the hills of & vales Sylhet that touch the north-western crown of this medieval Bengali-Buddhist kingdom of the Rohingya people.

Between 1429 & 1531, the Mrauk U kingdom had become a vassal state to the Hossain Shahi sultans of Gour-Bengal. Since then onwards, the place had deep seated Islamic influence. Many among the royal officials, the nobility, the army, as well as many ordinary citizens – had, by then taken to Islam. Two of the greatest Rohingya court-poets who enriched Bangla literature with their ballads bore Muslim names: Daulat Kazi and Syed Alaol

Come, let us look at their lives, times & works:

Daulat Qazi (1600-1638) was Sufi. So was his patron Ashraf Khan – a commander in the army of king Thiri Thu Thamma. Daulat had given his patron the epithet – the Eye-Jewel of among the Laskar-fighters.

He had written a ballad based on yet another folk ballad. An ancient poet, Miyan Sadhan, from the faraway western climes of Rajasthan, had had scripted those folk ballads down in the Theth-Gohari language. The script by Miyan Sadhan was titled – “Mayank Sat”.  It was the sad, beautiful tale of Lore & Chandrani, alias Moyna the suttee. People from medieval Mithila, across the medieval centuries, had sung, danced & enacted these tales as Lorika – the songs of Lore. These ballad-tales were also popular among the Ahir people of southern Bihar. Thus flowed the music, the poetry and the tales across medieval, folk and bhakti-sufi literatures of the subcontinent and beyond.

Rohingya poet Daulat Qazi had assimilated and translated these tales into Bangla – thus recreating them as original works. He had two working titles for the manuscript – Suttte Moyna – or Moyna the Chaste & Lore Chandrani – or, Lore & the Moon’s Daughter.  He died before he could complete the work. Another Rohingya poet Alaol had, a few decades after Daulat’s death, completed the final one thirds of the work.

Someday, when we stop looking at the Rohingya people as either refugees or terrorists, shall we learn, together, of these stories that their histories share with those of so many communities of the Indian subcontinent and beyond – from Rajasthan to Kamboja. For tonight, let us flow with the a little bit of the verses penned by these Rohingya Sufi poets:

This is from a portion where Daulat Qazi shows how, during the rainy months,                                                      the sad heroine of the tale – Moyna – pines for her beloved who has gone far away:

In the second month of the rains

Moyna feels happy – it would rain on –

Many moods tinge her mind

Water flows all over the earth

It is dark like night all the time

The newlyweds play wild games of love

The skies turn green

The fields turn green

Green are the ten sides

And green is the daylight

Streaks of lightning play with clouds

Wild lovers make love

The nights – strong, dark and terrific

Games and waves go by, as do the colours and the plays 

In the second month of the rains

Waves of the seasons reveal themselves

How do I cross the river without Hori?

Fast flows the ocean and it roars

Winds blow reckless

Fires of parting rise four times higher… 

Sad since birth you are, King’s Daughter,

In vain do you take his name

Know this, that, loving good people with all heart,

is like a garland that becomes new every moment

Soldier-Hero-Jewel brightens the world

Another sample of medieval Bangla poetry penned by Rohingya Sufi Daulat Qazi                                                 who had gone to the Arakans from his birthplace at Chittagong –

Niranjan – the Colourless Emptiness –

Creates humans – as priceless jewels

There is none like the humans

In the Three Worlds

Without humans, there is no mind,

No knowing, no signs

Without humans, there are no holy books

Humans are the utmost gods –

Humans perform all rituals & worship

Seeking utmost Wisdoms

Humans are the divinity, sublime; humans are god and the gods

Without human beings, there is no one to divide the universe, the gods and the religions

Alaol (1597-1673) had a turbulent childhood. He was kidnapped by Portuguese pirates who had begun to establish settlements along the coasts of Bengal and Myanmar by the first years of the 17th century[i]. Shortly, he was sold to the Mrauk U kingdom, then under the rule of its last king Sanda Thudhamma (1658-1684) – noted in contemporary Aryan texts as Sri Chandra Sudharma. Other accounts, including those penned by Syed Alaol himself, indicate that, faced by poverty, he had joined the army of the Mrauk U kings. Soon, King Sanda got to know of his poetic talents. He began to translate many texts of Islamic tales and philosophies from Farsi & Arabic. This included a ballad-tale on Alexander – ‘Secundernama’ and the romantic epic the Seven Beauties alias Haft Paykar (translated AD 1660) – from their original Farsi texts written by Nizami of Ganja in the early 11th centuries.

However, his magnum opus is Padmavati – based on the tale of Queen Padmini of Chittor. This, too, is a work of translation, published in AD 1646. The original is the much celebrated Padumavati, written in AD 1540, in the Awadhi language and the Nasta-liiq script by sufi poet Malik Mohammad Jaysi.

In Alaol’s Bangla Padmaboti we see Persian music mingle with Bangla ‘p(n)achali’ folk music styles. Sufi visions mingle with those of the ancient Sravaka-s and medieval Mahayana, Mantra-yana and Tantra-yana visions – each informed by people’s wisdoms from climes far and wide – from Tibet to far reaches of the subcontinent and Ceylon to those from the far southern Cambodian climes. Let us see a sample of poetry that thus came from the Rohingyas in the 17th century – from Alaol’s Padmaboti –

Ah my life pierces

I stay awake and dream – no more am I on earth

Know not what destiny awaits beyond these karmic sins

I find the touchstone – and then I lose it by mistake

Whom do I tell these tales that sadden my mind?

It shall pain my friends – that pain shall kill me too

Days and nights of sadness stretch beyond epochs and eras

How do I bear with the pain? I suffer like fish without water

For what great Jeeu – life – lies in the holy-pot (GhawT)

The heart is hard stone – no sorrow makes it break

Recalling the wisdom and welfare of the great sage Moses

Humble Alaol sings of the sadness of parting

There is no Bhava without love

There is no Rasa without love

Everything visible in the three worlds

Lies tamed by love

Whosever heart bears saplings of love

becomes free – becomes God of Love

Beholding eyebrows furl in frown

All the snakes wonder and ponder

And slip down to Rasatala – further depths of the netherworlds

In garden-waters hide the deer that played

Those eyes that the wagtail-birds had sung paeans about

Has its lashes & corners reddened by dark collyrium now

Buddhist kings from medieval Myanmar used to encourage translations of such Sufi tales and ballads – even those from faraway Persian climes. Today, things are very different in the subcontinent as they are across Myanmar and across the world. As these sufi poetry of the Rohingya attest – it is not so that there has only been war & conflict between cultures & civilizations. Be it the Buddhist ones or the Abrahamic ones or the totemic ones or even the Hindu ones – these had also informed, enriched and breathed life into all the composite and ever-flowing cultures of each other.

The cultures of the Rakhine valleys, like those of its neighbouring Chittangong & Syllhet – reveal such breathtaking amalgamation of Sufi, Buddhism, Hinduism & tribality. This informs much of the much revered treasures of Bangla folk music – be it the Bhawaiya ox-shepherding songs of the multi-totem Rajbanshi people – also known as Songs of the Winds – or ancient lores on how the Gadh-Govindi kings with their hugh sub-Himalayan hill-fortresses, having taken to Hinduism despite much denigration from the Ganga-belt & even the Rarh-belt Brahmans – even among whom the former sniggered at the latter as ‘inferior races’. And yet, as tales of these once-totemic caste name Patro/Patra (Leaf) people of those lands say, when the Sufi faith was brought in to such sub-Himalayan climes by Shah Jalal of Persia and his 360 murids, the Fotress-Govinda kings went back to their totemic chietfaindoms across the Jaintiya Hills shared by India, Bangladesh & Myanmar today – where property and ownership were not encouraged as community practices. Thus, the individual identities of such chiefs, having emerged from their ancient tribality, mingled into their totemic collectives once again. Thus, Khalji generals chasing those Gadh-Govindi chiefs – those known in history as Brahmnas oppressed even by Ballala Sena (1160–1179) – down, no trace could be found beyond the caves and tunnels of the Jayanti hills that separate the mainland subcontinent from the sub-Himalayan climes of the Mon-Khmer speaking people.  There was a reason why the Khalji generals had begun chasing the then Brahminisied Gadh-Govindi kings. In all overzealousness to propagate caste-hatred – the Govindi Kings had conducted at least two beef lynchings – once by killing a boy and his father for bovine sacrificing on occasion of the boy’s birthday and killing a newlywed couple and many of their family members for the same ‘crime’ at their wedding. All these were also the times of when Alauddin Khalji was lording over Delhi (AD 1296-1316)[ii].

Like the Syllheti people who had taken to Islam faced beef-lynchings from the marauding and Hinduised Gaudh-Govindi kings, the Kurmi people – bearing ancient totemic history as evinced by their clan/jaati – name that draws from their ancient tortoise totem – faced chicken lynching from the Hindu fiefs and vassals across the eastern subcontinent during the feudal ages – right from the times of the Sena kings[iii].

In strains of Bhawaiya music – “Folklores of the Breezes” – of the indigenous people of north-eastern climes of Bengal and the south-western ones of Assam, flowing across plains of Nepal and the Terais & the Doars – the last two being the terrains and doors that lead to the Himalayas if one approaches from the Gangetic plains – we hear whistles of the Bull-shepherding clans from times when the gotra­ aggression had not descended among the Rajbongshi people – born, as their collective jaati name affixed by the powerful Sanskritic cultures reveal – into Chieftain-Lineages in ancient times, holding many totems such as that of the bull. Lores and aphorisms hold tales of such songs when bulls and tortoises would be abundant in the frontier climes of the Himalayas – being those Shivalika range mounds and hillocks that dot the boundaries between mainland Bengal and the Himalayan and south-Himalayan climes, fill the air of villages, fields, grazing-grounds and rivers that have all flowed on since far ancient times of community-life.

Across the colonial times, coachmen, while drawing their carriages, would recall songs from their bull-totem shepherd ancestors from grey, forgotten pasts:

O brother driver

How long shall I stare at the roads

(Until) that day (when) the car rolls upstream!

translation from Bhawaiya lyric as in public domain                                                                                               and villagers, speaking of capital-couched urban entertainments, would croon: 

 Brother boatman,

Take an anna

and take me to the famous zoo –

the Royal Rangpur Chiriya-khana

-translation from Bhawaiya lyric as in public domain

Women, in collective recollection of Neolithic inheritance as the first farmers & the first priests,                       would sing on from the huts, barns & shades:

We grind rice with the husking pedal

The wood of the pedals dance

We dance

  • Translated from Bangla folk song in Bonikbarta e-zine, , from the original Bangla scripted out                                                                     by Farq-al-Shabir in his article “Bangla-r Baro Gaan”, 2017)

From inside those huts, grandchildren would giggle to their grandmothers crooning folk-riddle tales involving a tortoise scolding a palm-toddy tree from which a fruit had dropped on the shelly back of the hapless creature:

Oh big black chunk of sugar, why did you grind me?

To this the palm-toddy tree would make reply:

My time had come to fall,

why did you seat below me, Baal

(translated from the Bangla version as told by a grandma from dist. Jessore.

Thus, there is always poetry. If we gaze beyond all the clashes of all the cultures – we stare, Sufiesque and Shamanesque, into the horizons of synthesis along the medieval boundaries between the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar through – we find that, beyond the dark clouds of ‘other’-ing, silvery lines of poetry, music and philosophies playing on, like Lalon’s New Moon moonrise on the 27-starred skies:

(i) know not where the moon stays on New-Moon

When the moon rises in the skies –

it stays where it is. Knowing not

the deep meanings of the New Moon

In vein do I roam, counting stars & dates

Oh every month, I see, the fresh young moon

Taking the same form – during the Full Moon Night

& the New Moon one!

Whom do I ask what does this mean?

You, who know, speak how

the mind eases there. The sky

is made of 27 nakshatra – the lunar-mansions –

There Yoga of Swati – Arcturus – the fourth brightest star

Knowing not when that happens,

in vain doth Lalon cry thy name out!

-Lalon, (1772/74-1890)

After Lalon, as the cultural front of the post-Fakir rebellion colonial Bengal when the zamindari system was digging its claws in provided relief in faith and music to people from all jaatis and religions in the 18th & 19th centuries was on the wane, its  eastern frontiers were being culturally safeguarded from  communal disharmony by Hachhon or Ali the King – Hasan-Raja, alias Ali-Raja (1854-1922)

One kaya – body, one chhaya – shadow

These are the only two

One tan – body, one man – mind, one divinity

One Kaya in the Three Worlds, one Avatara

All creatures worship and chant out towards that one Lord

Premananda Simhasana – Premananda Vrindavana – Premananda Amrita-Lahara

The Lion Thorne in joy of love – Vrindavana in joy of love – Ambrosia-waves in joy of love

  Premenanda Taru-moola, Premananda Phala-phoola –

Tree-roots in joy of love – Fruits & flowers in joy of love

Premananda Rasa madhukara

Nectar-bees in joy of love!

Thus, all down those medieval centuries & millennia of war & peace, right until ripe pre-modernity – we find poetry & music glinting the waves of these cultural. 11 among the 164 poets of Vaishnava ‘Padabali’ literature as listed out by Dinesh Chandra Sen (1866-1939) were Sufi Fakirs. Many among them even sang of Gora, alias, Chaitanya (1486-1534) – a distinctively Hindu power consolidator of medieval Bengal. Thus we find, glinting in the temporal flows of literary history like moonlight does on waves & currents:

Jiu Jiu Mera Man-Chora Gora

Dances all by himself, filled to brim with his own Rasas

(Akbar Shah)

Rasa-tatva, or the body-praxis oriented philosophies that encompass all bodily and natural nectars and fluids – the Orient’s answer to the Occident’s alchemy – as binary enthusiasts might exclaim out loud if acquainted with those philosophies – despite having ancient Tantric origins  as attested to by the ancient Charyapada poets – had, down the medieval times, become a decidedly Vaishnava praxis. And yet, we see even Sufi poets sing on the same!  Thus, the Lalon Fakir sings out & clear:

Come, see the new Bhava brought by Gora

Shaven-headed, donning a blanket, donning a piece of loin-cloth

(Lalon)

A host of other poets from the pre-industrial times of eastern Bengal hoist torches of communal love and harmony across the medieval times.

Golden Human has come to room, Oh

Flowing, with devotees, in the waves of love

In the room of Srivasa the Pundit

(- Lal Mamud; Srivasa Pundit, as referred to in this poem, was a Brahmin contemporary to Chaitanyta. Hailing from Syllhet – he had made Vaishnavism and Brahminism mingle and take its present pro-caste, pro-gotra Hindu identity.  Syllhet, as a sub-Himalayan border between the mainland subcontinent and the North-east and Myanmar, had, like the climes of the Rohingya people and those of Chittagong, thus, has an intensely syncretic culture. Then again, the same is true, in essence, for all the cultures of the world – except those that kill each other through ceaseless warfare.

Friend Shyam, you calm the mind with nirvana

Without seeing you, on some blessed date, I cannot be

When will you reveal yourself before my moon-like face?

Ill-fated (Radha) I am, my mind trembles in unrest

I die ten times every passing hour, with every punishment

(Mortaza, 17th century AD, Murshidabad) 

Lo and Behold medieval Sufi verses weeping with Radha:

Listen, listen O Radha, Goddess,

the Hindus call you Radha, I call you Khoda

But when I call out to you as Radha –

Mullahs and Munshees resist

(Vasana Udaasa, real names and times unknown)

Though in the early 20th century, Dinesh Chandra Sen (1866-1939) had identified eleven Sufi poets, putting their works to taxonomy as those by Sufi-Vaishnava poets, by the mid 20th century[iv], it becomes daylight that more than hundreds of such medieval and early-modern folk-poets from east bengal can also claim such taxonomical inheritances.

Let us not burden our story with more and more and more proper nouns.

Modern times had led to ever-strengthening of barb-wired and bullet-ridden borders and boundaries, cutting the west and east Bengal out as separate political entities. May friends all around keep on learning & teaching wisdoms of communal harmony that shine in the all these poetries written before the times when mechanized and industrialized agriculture became the living reality of people the world over.

Even beyond the eastern climes of Bengal, there is much to learn on communal harmonies. For instance, even from the Chakama people – spoken about as one of the leading jaati-s of the Ko-ki climes – i.e., of Myanmar, Cambodia etc by early 17th century Tibetan Buddhist Lama Taranatha – we find, in the 19th century, a great queen arise from the totemic dynasties of Myanmar. Kalindi (d. 1873). Despite much resistance from caste-enforcers at many levels, she had sought to harmonise Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, the totemic systems and even the ones of industry and business brought from across the Seven Seas. From across the Himalayas had come wisdom from the Land of the Four Sees – garlanding itself through flowers of poetry in the Mon-khmer languages, in the Austric ones brought from the faraway isles & archipelagoes beyond the southern shores Kamboja – to inform these systems of wisdom on syncretic human cultures. Let us dream that many friends from all these lands near and far would bring forth these poetries and music over the years and decades to come – reminding humanity to shun the paths of oppression on which we have our accelerators up today. As

Today people from the Rakhinye kingdoms of the Arakan Valley, alongside Chakmas, the Kurmi people  and the many-totemed Rajbansis clans of the eastern Himalayan frontiers of the mainland subcontinent, along with all people from all those from ancient clans that had existed as great sovereigns before the gotra system of the Aryan Brahminical Hindu orders began to tear communities apart – suffer in the hands of greed that capitalism ushers, of pride that ideas of nationalism usher and of communal hatred that religions usher when they become big stakeholders of these power-games.

I do not seek to establish that everything was rosy earlier, on and then, in modern times, tragedies begun to strike. From the accounts of Lama Taranatha, we learn that, ‘during the rule of the four Sena kings, one-half of all the monks & apprentices attached to the Nalanda & other Magadhan monasteries were from the Ko-ki countries’[v]. We know what happened to the Buddhist monasteries & its monks in during the rule of the Hindu Sena kings when the newly re-risen caste-orders had begun to grip societies with some of its most brutal practices such as Kulinism & the suttee. Such conflicts also had deep impacts on the indignity of such climes. Written histories hint at these. Unwritten ones hidden behind folklores & clan-names of indigenous people the world over reveal more.

From the ancient times we learn of the totems. In medieval times, we find sufi court poets to the Buddhist Mrauk U kings flourishing and continuing with the ancient tradition of ‘lotasva’-s or translators translating scripted tales from the Indian subcontinent. We find cultures mix and flow on like rivers of magic through the ancient and medieval times. Even in the 19th CE, we find an indigenous queen from the Chakma Circle consolidating ancient terrains with the help of Mahayana Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, totemism & even Christianity. Sadly, by then, most of Buddhism had lost much of its ancient veins of resistance against racism. In any case, that religion hardly ever had any space either for the nature-faced totemism of the adivasi people or the science-faced materialism of the Charvaka people.

Today, all spaces for people to breathe easy have faded from institutional religions, industrial-capitalist economies and from political agents as companies and nation-states which are but big landowners in the Third World and beyond. The war is thus on us from all fronts now.   Today, we see how the nation statesempowered religious ordersbig-capital media & even big-capital do-gooders keep themselves busy in their attempts to portray people from the Arakan Valley either as savages & terrorists or as pitiable refugees. They shall not bother to know about the Alaols, the Daulats & the Hachhon-Raja-s. Power has got nothing to do with poetry – except to find itself being browbeaten by the latter someday – let us dream on.

But let us not bide our whiles in idle-dreaming. While learning of cultures of resistance from the Rohingya & the Chakma communities in peril, while learning how the syncretic as well as violent ways of the complex jaati systems with all its Buddhist, Sufi & totemic inheritances work, while learning how to resist the race-wars that wage reckless the world over, we must rise tall & firm in defiant askance. We must ask ourselves the following question:

Do we think that the people through whom flows such rivers of poetry and music from ancient and medieval times be classified as expendables in these mad, extinction-bound wars that grip the human species today?

[i] Banglar Shahityo-Itihash, Sukumar Sen, Sahitya Akademi, 1965

[ii] Srihatter Itibritta, Achyuta Charan Chowdhury, published by Upendra Pal Chowdhury. Calcutta, 1920

[iii] Bangali Hindu-r Varnabhed, Niharranjan Ray, Visva-Bharati, 1945

[iv] Bangla Shahityer Shampurna Itibritta, by Asit Kr. Bandyopadhyaya, Modern Book Agency, Calcutta, 1966

[v] Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India, translated from Tibetan into English by Lama Chimpa & Alaka Chattopadhyaya, ed. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Motilal Banarsidass, Shimla, 1970

 Atindriyo Chkraborty is a poet. http://atindriyo.blogspot.in/     Share this:

Source: https://countercurrents.org/2018/06/medieval-rohingya-poetry 

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Message from Nurul Islam, Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation on the occasion of the Rohingya National Day 2020

  Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)

 Message from Nurul Islam, Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation on the occasion of the Rohingya National Day 2020

January 3, 2020 | ARNO, ARNO Press Release
“Bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim”
“In The Name of Allah, The most Beneficent, the Most Merciful”

 Dear Rohingya brothers and sisters,
Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barkatuh!

It is indeed a great privilege and honour for me to send this message of congratulations to all Rohingya brothers and sisters around the world, on this auspicious occasion of the Rohingya National Day on 3rd January 2020.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Rohingya are a people with rich historical heritage and glorious past. They have connections to the high cultures of Bengal, Persia and Arabia and their sublime civilization have had contributed to the peoples of Arakan and Burma. For centuries Arakan prospered, as an independent kingdom, on international trade, brought into its people new ideas and learning, a flourishing civilization with the most cosmopolitan court in modern Burmese history. History testifies that the heyday of Arakan began with the development of Muslim civilization. Yet, today we are not tolerated in the country for our religion, ethnicity and South Asian appearance in contrast to Southeast Asian of dominant Bamar. We are proud of having resemblance with the people of Bengal or the ancient inhabitants of Arakan. We are nevertheless “Rohingya” by history, by culture and by civilization; and a people indigenous to Arakan, therefore, to Burma/Myanmar.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We have been oppressed and persecuted beyond all measures. Particularly from 1962 military takeover, our people have faced the continuous process of de-legitimization, institutionalized persecution and worsening abuses culminating in genocide. In 2017, the world was appalled by the images of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children fleeing genocide in Burma/Myanmar. We saw houses and villages were burned to the ground, women gang-raped and babies were thrown into the flame. UN Fact-Finding Mission has now called this atrocities “genocide”. Today, Bangladesh is home to more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees, including those who have been taking refuge over the decades. The Rohingya people are grateful to the people and government of Bangladesh for generously welcoming them, showing solidarity by a bold, merciful and humanitarian gesture despite the economic constraints of this nation.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We Rohingya are victims. We are survivors. Above all, we are innocent people who want to return to our homeland in safety, in dignity, and with justice. Sadly, we have seen no evidence that the Myanmar government is committed to achieving this goal. It has no intention of creating the conditions for a sustainable return, because they have already achieved their goal: eliminating the Rohingya people from Arakan.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Our villages have been bulldozed to erase any signs of former lives and evidence of crimes against Rohingya, including mass graves all over Northern Arakan. Our lands have been appropriated, declared state ownerships and are being allocated to establish increasing Buddhist settler villages and to transform into so-called economic zones in collaboration with greedy exploiters or economic imperialists. We have lost everything –human dignity, human rights and freedoms. We have no opportunity to earn daily bread, even the opportunity to survive. Everything is taken away.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Genocide is still ongoing in Arakan. Nowhere our people are safe. They do not look upon us as people. They tend to regard us as a separate breed. About 80% of our population was expelled to lead a life of humiliation as refugees and baggers in alien lands. Those who are still at home are confined to ghettos and apartheid-like concentration camps without education, healthcare, enough food and necessities for life. For nearly 8 years from 2012, the IDPs in Sittwe and other southern towns are not allowed to return to their original places to rebuild their lives.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We are now in the abyss of our history. We must rise up from this horrible situation for emancipation. National unity is indispensable for our steady victory. Whether we are in the homeland or the in places of refuge we are one national unit. The sacrifice that is demanded of us is not greater than the sacrifice many generations have made. The setback we have faced one after another is not permanent. We never, ever lose hope, and we never lose confidence that we will win one day, Insha-Allah. Remember we do not stand alone. We are not isolated. The freedom-loving and justice upholding people of the world are with us

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Gambia vs. Myanmar hearings concluded on December 12, 2019 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. We express solidarity with the Republic of Gambia and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and thank them generously for their support of our people. While Rohingya community waits for the decision by the ICJ on provisional measures, we continue to ask the international community to assist by asking for a complete stop to genocide and crimes against humanity against our people and all ethnic minorities within Myanmar. We ask the international community to assist us in returning home in a safe and dignified manner. Specially, we ask for international protection in our return home so that we are safe from perpetrators who still remain at large and face no consequences for their flagrant violations of international law. In addition, we ask agencies who are working with Myanmar to continue to demand that full citizenship be provided to the Rohingya consistent with other ethnic nationalities of the Union of Myanmar.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We want our rights and freedom. We want equal political rights, because without them we will be disabled permanently. We desire nothing else than peace. We want to live peacefully and honorably in Arakan as equals. We cherish the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all peoples live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. The perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing must be brought to justice. We want to solve our crisis peacefully before our patience is at an end. The ball is in the court of Myanmar government. The decision lies in their hand: Give to the Rohingya people their rights and freedom or we will go to fetch them for ourselves.

Long live Rohingya!

Tags:January 3 –2020, ARNO, ARNO Press Release

Source: https://www.rohingya.org/message-from-nurul-islam-chairman…/

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Aung San Suu Kyi party official killed in Rakhine

MYANMAR > INSURGENCY                                                           DECEMBER 26, 2019

Suu Kyi stunned observers when she agreed to lead a team to The Hague in mid-December to represent Myanmar. Photo: AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi party official killed in Rakhine

Rakhine rebels (AA) who had been holding him for weeks said he died during military attacks on Christmas Day

 By AT CONTRIBUTOR

An official from Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party was killed in Rakhine state after planning a show of support for the leader’s defense of Myanmar against genocide allegations at The Hague, a spokesman said Thursday.

The National League for Democracy’s Ye Thein, party chairman in Buthidaung township, had been held for weeks by the Arakan Army (AA), insurgents fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. The rebels said he was killed in military attacks on Christmas Day but the claim could not be verified and NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt said the group bore responsibility.

Ye Thein was detained on December 11 ahead of demonstrations backing Suu Kyi’s high-profile opening statements at the UN’s top court the same day. “We, all members of NLD, are very sorry for the loss,” Myo Nyunt told AFP. “His gathering to support her was righteous and it was not a crime.”

The Arakan Army has carried out a series of daring kidnappings, bombings and raids against the army and local officials in Rakhine state. Myanmar’s military has hit back hard, deploying thousands of additional soldiers to the western state and carrying out what Amnesty International called enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions.

The clashes are taking place in the same area where the military drove around 740,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border to Bangladesh in a bloody 2017 campaign. The small African, mainly Muslim state of Gambia opened arguments against Buddhist-majority Myanmar at the International Court of Justice on December 10, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN genocide convention in its operations against the Rohingya.

Backed by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands, Gambia sought emergency measures to prevent further violence against the Rohingya, pending a fuller case that could take years.

The Arakan Army said ahead of the hearings that it endorsed the case in a rare display of solidarity with the Rohingya, who are seen in Myanmar as non-citizens.

Suu Kyi stunned observers when she agreed to lead a team to The Hague in mid-December to represent Myanmar. The former democracy icon’s reputation lies in tatters over the crisis but at home she enjoys broad support and several events across the country were organized to cheer her on.

Suu Kyi said in her opening statement there was no proof of “genocidal intent” and said army operations were in response to Rohingya militant attacks. – AFP

 Tags: Aung San Suu Kyi, National League For Democracy, Genocide The Hague, AFP

 Source: https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/12/article/aung-san-suu-kyi-party-official-killed-in-rakhine/

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya
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