`Homeless` People and `Illegal` Migrants

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By M C Arun

Oral history is powerful tool that is being used in the social science studies. Oral history is often taken wrongly as synonymous with oral tradition. The latter is different from the former in its universality in a social or cultural groups; the former is oral narratives of an individual, actor who have participate in an event. It is not universally shared in the group. There are oral historical narratives, these days, in post-riot period between Rohingyas and Buddhists in Myanmar as well as between the Bodos and “Muslim” migrants in Assam. Many human stories are floating in different journals, web pages narrating the difficulties, agony, anger, helplessness, legal loopholes, humanitarian crises, etc. The stories are very sensitive in such a conflict zone where there are multiple layers of sentimental issues, economic interests, and ethnic politics (Rakhinese and Myanmarese, Assamese and Bodo, etc). The illegal Muslims in Assam and Royingyas in Myanmar (both from Bangladesh) are considered as illegal migrants who threat the demographically and economically to the host States. On the other hand, these peoples are unwanted by the home country Bangladesh. Similar to this situation had been faced by Indian and Chinese communities just after the decolonization of South East Asia, especially in Indonesia and Myanmar.

The recent clashes between Rohingyas and Buddhists was immediately triggered in June when three Muslim men allegedly rape and murder of a Buddhist girl. There are as much as 60,000 Muslims in refugee camps and many thousands Buddhists homeless. Many houses, mosques and Buddhist shrines have been burned to the ground. The oral historical accounts of the violence, narrated by Buddhists and Rohingyas are quite diagonally different. The Myanmarese and Rakhinese take the Rohingya as “foreign invaders”, illegal migrants. They even do not like to use “Rohingya” when referred to the Muslim migrants; rather they use “Bengali Muslim”. When “Rohingya” is used, it is associated, they believe, with recognition of the group in the soil of country. On the other hand, the Rohingya do not believe that the Government constituted Commission for investigating the recent violence would do justice to them. Many of the members of the 27-membered Commission, to the Rohingya, are biased against the Muslim communities in Myanmar.

On the other hand, there are international pressures on Myanmar to recognize the Rohingya as citizen of Myanmar. In a recently concluded International Conference at Kuala Lumpur on Plight of the Rohingya: Solution?, President of Perdana Global Peace Foundation, Mr Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, in his Key Note address, that the only solution to the violence and conflict surrounding Rohingya community can be resolved only when Myanmar recognized the group as citizens. According to him, the country`s inability to accept the Rohingya as an indigenous group had led to years of discrimination, oppression and sectarian clashes, most recently seen in this year`s ongoing riots between the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. But, in Myanmar, the fear of the “Bengali Muslim” is aggravated by the fact that former political prisoner Ko Ko Gyi is on the commission, despite previously saying that his 88 Generation student protest movement would never recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic minority group of Myanmar and he and his followers would be willing to take up arms to fight against “foreign invaders”. Moreover, Khin Ye, Mmigration Minister said last week that Rohingyas born in Burma are eligible to apply for citizenship if at least two generations of their families have lived in the country.

In a similar way, Assam is trying to find out who illegal migrants are and who are not while the sufferings and discriminations against the “Muslims” are more focused in various oral narratives on the other side of the story. The steps taken up by Assam are considered as anti-Muslim rather than a step to drive out illegal foreign origin migrants from the State. Assam clearly said that the rehabilitation of the violence affected persons would be only available to those who are citizens of India. Illegal migrants are supposed to be driven out.

In Manipur, the drive against the illegal migrants came to an end when the heat of Bodo-Migrant clashes decreases. The political action on the illegal migrants of the State is not consistent and has no concrete plan of action. The illegal migrants from friendly foreign neighbors are real threat of the State; this threat is not fully perceived by the people of Manipur in their own perspectives. The issues are not mere problems relating to law and order. The manifestations of the issues are beyond the Police power and skills. Manipur needs to take a holistic approach to the problem so that it can handle the issues relating to illegal migrants at all fronts, including international pressures. Politics is not all about dysentery actions to burning issues; it requires a consistent and constant action.

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