Problem of migrant settlers Silent invaders or new neighbors

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By M  C Arun

The human tragedy in Rakhine State of Myanmar is well reported in different media around the globe. The clash between Buddhist Rakhinese and Rohingya Muslim migrant settlers from Bangladesh has cost many human lives. It is called by many Muslim groups as genocide or ethnic cleansing. This clash once again opens the Pandora box of Rohingya’s political status in Myanmar. These people are denied by Bangladesh as theirs, saying that they are Myanmar citizens. The Rakhinese people in Rakhine State take them as foreigners who are coming from their western neighbor. The Myanmar Government does not recognize them as one of its communities, citizens. In short, they are the stateless people.

The recent clash in the State costs many human lives, injured several persons and made thousands homeless. This ethnic clash no longer remains as a national problem within Myanmar. It goes beyond the limit of ‘internal affairs’ of a country. Its human tragedy reaches every corner of the world. Besides UN, many countries are looking at Rakhine State with an accusing finger for the serious humanitarian crisis. The clash however is deep rooted in history and stories of endless neighbor migrants from Bangladesh. The migrants and their settlements provoked a shaky feeling in the minds of original settlers. It is true that the clash brought a fear psychosis among the migrant settlers; it is also true that the original settlers have a strong fear of being dominated by the new settlers.

It is true that the Rohingyas are Muslims and the Rakhinese are Buddhists. In the State, there are Hindus and other Muslims too. Is it a clash between the Buddhists and Muslims or simply between the Rakhinese who are original settlers and the Rohingya? Is there any incidence of clash between the two religious groups Buddhists and Muslims in other parts of the country? There are many Muslims living in other states and divisions in Myanmar. The clash is only in certain places near the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh; and other areas of the country are still free from such riots. Even in Rakhine state itself, other Muslims are not affected by the clash. The clash is politically exaggerated by giving religious color in many international media so that the Rohingya settlements in Myanmar could get legitimized internationally.

In a similar fashion, Bangladeshi origin settlers, again Muslims, in western part of Assam (to be précise, four districts of Kokrajhar, Baska, Udalguri and Chirang within the jurisdiction of Bodo Territorial Autonomous District, BTAD) clash with the Bodos. The clash is explained in different manners in different news channels by different groups of people. There is a wide range of opinions across the political parties – regional and national. The opinion ranges from humanitarianism to national security, external factors to historically deep rooted problem. Assam in general and south western districts in particular feel that the migrants from the neighboring country Bangladesh has created a state of demographic disequilibrium and pose a threat to the very existence of the original settlers. The clash in Assam is also limited in certain geographical areas.  No other Muslim community in Assam is attacked. This limited clash is still between a community of original settlers and the migrant Bangladeshi in Assam. The immediate cause may be anything. But, a group of people is trying to give a religious color to it so that the issue may look uglier. It may become a national (even international) concern. Like the Rakhinese, the Bodos are also victims of the clash. Forgetting the fact that the Bodos are also suffering because of the clash, the riot in Mumbai or attacks on North Easterners in Pune and a few places of Andhra Pradesh clearly show that the sufferings of Muslim population are considered only. There is an organized effort to blow up the localized clash larger than the actual happening. Any reasonable man will understand the reason why the heat of the riot is not felt in other parts of Assam and other parts of North East India. Why is it so seriously projected in Mumbai and Pune? The conspiracy is so obvious.  Home Secretary, Government of India, opens up certain findings that bulk messages (SMS, MMS and others in different web pages) are sent from Pakistan.

From these two parallel happenings (both in time and quality of the riots) in eastern and northern borders of Bangladesh, it is learnt that the issues of neighbor migrants become more and more dangerous over a period of time. Sooner the better in handling the foreign migrants problem. Now, after witnessing blood baths, the Bodo and the Assamese are imaged as inhuman villains, the Rakhine in Myanmar are labeled as racists. In both the cases, neighbor migrants come in smaller groups day by day over a period of time and gradually form a strong community in their new settlement areas. Naturally, this is looked upon as a challenge to the very existence and survival of the original settlers. A threat perception is developed in the collective mind of the original settlers. This perception is not fully understood by both state and central Government in peaceful times. Their voices were not fully heard. Rather the Governments tried to pacify their voices with an Accord or some false promises. Still today, “Time is the greatest healer” is political mantra of riot control; but it is not the real solution. They are all fighting the riot, not the problems that give birth to such riots. Rather it is waiting for larger riots in the next bout.  If the killings and other violent acts are really anti-humanity, the Government should operate a surgical operation of the issues swiftly and tactfully.

Even the Manipuri students who are in some States are panicked because of targeted attacks on North Easterners. These attacks show the attackers’ solidarity to the new migrants in Assam. Such solidarity is shown by Mrs. Emine Erdogan, wife of Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoðan, and daughter Sumeyye Edogan who visited Myanmar with a great hope to break the Ramadan fast with the Rohingya Muslims in the camps at Switt. Afterward, she told the world that she was shocked with the condition of Rohingya victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and arousing a shock wave beyond the national boundary of Myanmar. Not only she tries to show her solidarity, but also she tries to mobilize others too. It gives a new turn in the discourse of this riot. Now Islamic Conference is ready to take up the Rohingya Issue in UN.

The exodus of North Easterners from some South Indian States gives a new color to the clash between the Bodo and the new migrants. Fortunately, the tension has so far remained between the two communities in BTAD; it has not spread to other parts of NE India. But, the scores of propaganda (what India Government calls Rumor) gain, in political sense, seek to bring up the clash with new migrants, at the national level.

The new migrants from our friendly neighbor consider Manipur as heaven having no resistance both from original settlers and the government concerned. They establish new villages in different parts of the State. This issue has been raised politically by All Manipur Students Union in 1980s. The political issue is no more considered seriously as other issues such as human rights violations have overtaken in the State. Once, the government of Manipur formed a committee to detect foreigners in the State. But no concrete step was taken up. Nothing came out of it. In due course of history, the number of ‘foreigner’ villages increases day by day. This issue of foreigners becomes more serious and complex as time passes. Like the cases of Rakhine and Assam, Manipur also witness, everyone feels, corrupt practices of immigration and other State officials. They did not examine relevant matters for establishing new villages. More likely, such new immigrants also settle down even in certain areas of Imphal. However, the people of Manipur pay less attention to the foreigners due to ethnic tensions among themselves. The silent migrants from our friendly neighbor breed while the original settlers are crying for each other’s blood.

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