The New sinister attempt of Burmese Government
By Aman Ullah
According to Thura U Aung Ko, The Burmese Central Minister of Religious and Cultural Affairs , it is said that, the Burmese Government is going to publish a book in English Language to show the whole world that the Bengali who claimed Rohingyas are not indigenous citizen of Burma.
This will be another sinister attempt by a democratically elected government against the Rohingyas. The government is trying not only to wipe out entire Rohingya community from the soil of Arakan but also to white wash their identity, citizenship and ethnicity.
Rohingyas are descended from local indigenous tribes who lived in Arakan since the dawn of history. They trace their ancestry to Arabs, Moors, Pathans, Moguls, Bengalis and some Indo-Mongoliod people. They are living in Arakan generation after generation for centuries after centuries and their arrival in Arakan has predated the arrival of many other peoples and races now residing in Arakan and other parts of Burma. Early Muslim settlement in Arakan dates back to 7th century AD. They developed from different stocks of people and concentrated in a common geographical location from their own society with a consolidated population in Arakan well before the Burman invasion in 1784.
Dr. Michael W. Charney, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London In his PhD thesis, Where Jambudipa and Islamdom Converged: Religious Change and the Emergence of Buddhist Communalism in Early Modem Arakan (Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries), wrote:, “There were Muslims in Arakan as early as the Ninth century but it is likely that their presence was not very strong. Before its conquest by the Burmese in 1784, there was already a substantial rural Muslim population in Arakan. Perhaps up to three-quarters of Danra-waddy’s [northern Arakan, including Sittwe and Mrauk-U] population by the 1770s may have been Muslim”. Meanwhile, “some Bengali Muslims in Mrauk-U participated in the development of an elite Muslim culture in the royal city, perhaps reflecting their privileged backgrounds in Banga [Southern Bengal].”https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2013123838966897&id=100008079004146
Charney further asserted that, “the border along the Naf River between the British-controlled Bengal and Arakan did not have the same meaning for the British and the Burmese. Pre-colonial Burma was a wide imprecisely defined frontier region lying between India and China, Arakan was a frontier region between Burma and Bengal.
Whatever border there was between Arakan and Bengal, it disappeared completely after the first Anglo-Burmese war (1824-1826), when Arakan passed to British hands. At that time, Charles Paton, the sub-Commissioner of Arakan, estimated that, from a total population of 100,000 people, 60 percent were ‘Mughs’ (Rakhine), 30 percent were ‘Mussalman’ (Muslims) and 10 percent ‘Burmese’. It is clear that those were highly tentative figures, but at the same time it’s impossible to deny that there was a substantial Muslim population in Arakan before the arrival of the British.Jacques Leider, in his article, ‘Between Revolt and Normality: Arakan after Burmese Conquest’ mentioned that, “we admit of a total population of Arakan of circa 250,000 in the time of (the Burmese) conquest, the country steadily lost up to 50% of its population. English observers estimated the Arakanese population at about 100,000 at the time of the British conquest.”
No one in British Burma would dispute that there was a group of “Arakan Muslims” who could indeed trace their roots back to the 17th Century and even earlier and who were quite distinct from the Chittagonians and Bengali immigrants to Arakan.
It is also undeniable that there was a migratory wave of Muslims from Bengal in colonial times that joined an already sizeable Muslim population who were there before the arrival of British. Present-day Rohingya are thus, the descendants of both waves of migration, which intermingled to such a degree that now it would be impossible to distinguish who descends from one or the other. In any case, it would be impossible “to reconstruct any demonstrable discrete ancestral group” for the people who now have chosen to call themselves Rohingya, as it would be impossible for any other Burmese ethnic group.
According to the censuses of both 1921 and 1931, it has clearly mentioned that, ‘There was a Muslim community in Arakan, particularly in Akyab District, who prefers to call themselves Arakan-Mahomadens and were quite distinct from the Chittgonians and Bengali immigrants to Arakan.’ ‘According to Baxter report of 1940, paragraph 7, “This Arakanese Muslim community settled so long in Akyab District had for all intents and purposes to be regarded as an indigenous race.”
Nationality pertains to a person’s region of birth or origin. Nationality is also defined as the relation of a person with his state of origin. Nationality gives a person protection of the nation where he or she was born. It is a fundamental human right that facilitates the ability to exercise all the other rights.
The right to nationality without arbitrary deprivation is now recognized as a basic human right under international law. According to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to a nationality,” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” While issues of nationality are primarily within each state’s jurisdiction, a state’s laws must be in accord with general principles of international law.
A person with a country’s nationality is called a ‘national’. The legal definition of the term ‘national’ was mentioned in the Annex ‘A’ of ‘Aung San-Atlee Agreement’, which was signed on 27th January 1947. According to the ‘Annex A’ of that Agreement, it was mentioned that, ‘A Burma National is defined for the purpose of eligibility to vote and to stand as a candidate at the forth coming election as British subject or the subject of an Indian State who was born in Burma and reside there for a total period not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding either 1st January, 1942 or 1st January 1947’.
Thus, it defined that, ‘ who was born in Burma and reside there for a total period not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding either 1st January, 1942 or 1st January 1947’ is a national of Burma and he can be eligible to vote and to stand for the vote in the upcoming constituent election.
However, when Burma was going to get its independence, the question of who will remained as British subject and who will become the citizen of Independent Burma was arose. After assassination of Burmese Leader Aung San in 1947, U Nu led AFPFL and signed independent agreement with British Primer Clement Atlee on 17th October, 1947, which was known as Nu-Atlee Agreement.
The Nu-Atlee Agreement was very important as to the determination of the nationality status of the peoples and races in Burma. Article 3 of the Agreement states: “Any person who at the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty is, by virtue of the Constitution of the Union of Burma, a citizen thereof and who is, or by virtue of a subsequent election is deemed to be, also a British subject, may make a declaration of alienage in the manner prescribed by the law of the Union, and thereupon shall cease to be a citizen of the Union”.
Subsequently, according to the Clause 2 subsection (1) of the Burma Independence Act, 1947, “Subject to the provisions of this section, the persons specified in the First Schedule to this Act, being British subjects immediately before the appointed day, shall on that day cease to be British subjects:”Under the clause 1 subsection (2) of that Act, “the appointed day” means the fourth day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-eight.
As par the Clause 1 subsection (a) of schedules First Schedule, ‘persons who were born in Burma or whose father or paternal grandfather was born in Burma will lose their British Nationality after Burma has become independent.’ That’s means that, then they will no more to be subjects of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and will become independent citizens of independent Burma.
Under Section 11 (i) of the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947), it mentioned that, “every person, both of whose parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma”. The there a question was arose as; what is ‘indigenous race’ and who are ‘indigenous races’?
Who are indigenous races was defined in Article 3 (1) of the Union Citizenship Act, 1948, which states: “For the purposes of section 11 of the Constitution the expression any of the indigenous races of Burma shall mean the Arakanese, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon or Shan race and such racial group as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.)”. These two categories of people and those descended from them are automatic citizens. They did not require applying to court for naturalization.
However, under the section 3 of Burmese Citizenship law 1982, instead of the term indigenous it was used the term ‘national’.
According to Dr. Aye Maung, the then Chairman of the Drafting committee of the 1948 Union Citizenship Act, ‘The clause in the 1948 Union Citizenship Act “such racial group as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.),” was especially for the Muslims of Arakan.’
According to the Mr. Sultan Ahmed, the then a member of the Constituent Assembly, ‘When section II of the Constitution of the Union of Burma was being framed, a doubt as to whether the Muslims of North Arakan fell under the section sub-clauses (1) (II) and (III), arose and in effect an objection was put in to have the doubt cleared in respect of the term “Indigenous” as used in the constitution, but it was withdrawn on the understanding and assurance of the President of the constituent Assembly, at present His Excellency the President of the Union of Burma, who when approached for clarification with this question, said, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma which you represent. In fact there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, and that if you do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also cannot be taken an indigenous races of Burma.” Being satisfied with his kind explanation, the objection put in was withdrawn.
Hence, these Muslims of Arakan, who identify themselves as Rohingya, are for all intents and purposes to be regarded as an indigenous race and are also a racial group who had settled in Arakan/Union of Burma as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1823 A. D. (1185 B.E.).
The Rohingya is not simply a self-referential group identity, but an official group and ethnic identity recognized by the post-independence state. In the early years of Myanmar’s independence, the Rohingya were recognized as a legitimate ethnic group that deserved a homeland in Burma.
Thus, during the colonial rule the British recognized the separate identity of the Rohingyas and declared north Arakan as the Muslim Region. Again there are instances that Prime Minister U Nu, Prime Minister U Ba Swe, other ministers and high- ranking civil and military official, stated that the Rohingyas people like the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kaya, Mon and Rakhine. They have the same rights and privileges as the other nationals of Burma regardless of their religious beliefs or ethnic background.
Being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, the Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma. Their representatives were in the Legislative Assembly, in the Constituent Assembly and in the Parliament. As members of the new Parliament, their representatives took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4thJanuary 1948. Their representatives were appointed as cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. They had their own political, cultural, social organizations and had their programme in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BSS). As a Burma’s racial groups, they participated in the official “Union Day’ celebration in Burma’s capital, Rangoon, every year. To satisfy part of their demand, the government granted them limited local autonomy and declared establishment of Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) in early 60s, a special frontier district to be ruled directly by the central government.
In spite of that the Rohingya are the worst victims of human rights violations in Burma. They were displaced. Their identity was polluted. Their population was diluted. Their right to nationality was arbitrarily deprived. Since 1948, expelling the Rohingyas from their ancestral land and properties has become almost a recurring phenomenon. About 2 million uprooted Rohingyas have taken shelters in many countries of the world since the anti-Muslim pogrom of 1942 in Arakan. At present More than 650,000 members of the Islamic group Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017, creating a massive refugee problem in Bangladesh. The Myanmar army has targeted the Rohingya for persecution and massacres.
However, the more the successive regimes of Burma were trying to whitewash the name and ethnicity of Rohingya the more their name is going to spread throughout the world. Today the peoples of the every corner of world know the Rohingya. Even recently the American Name Society voted Rohingya as the 2017 Name of the Year.