Posted on December 5, 2013

Burma Times (By Z. M. Babar) There is a saying or belief in people of Bangladesh that ‘all Bengalis are Bangladeshi but all Bangladeshi are not Bengalis’(Eade, 1994). It has been assumed that Bengalis are the sons of the soil of Bangla. On the other hand, Bengalis refer to Muslim population of Bangladesh uniquely and specifically and they are superior to other ethnic minorities.

According to this theory, all those Bangladeshis who are not Muslims, they are not Bengalis but they are Bangladeshis. It can also be interpreted like that a Bengali becomes Bangladeshi automatically. Was there any logical question or debate on this matter in details? For example, why do we call them Bangladeshi those are not Bengalis? Did they contribute any for the Nation during the War of Liberation in 1971? If yes, who were they from those tribal people? Were they all from Bengal and/ or Bangla? How many percent (%) of them took part in that contribution? Do we have solid documents on the list of freedom-fighters from those tribes? How many percent did they share by war of independence? Why do we name them as ‘Indigenous or Tribal’(Rashiduzzaman, 1998)? Do they deserve the term ‘indigenous’? If yes, did we do any research (i.e., physical or genetics studies) on their ethnic origin(s) before naming them as indigenous (Mukherjee et al., 1987Saha, 1987)?

Merely, are we only calling them in such a way that people may believe that Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony where world tourists could find something different interesting? There is a misunderstanding as well among the uneducated and/ or general Bengali population that this term refers to those who live in the hills only and they normally do not live in the plain land. Obviously, it is not true because they could be found in many non-hilly places of Bangladesh nowadays. If so, do we still need to call them Hill people? We have not mentioned about Hindus and Rohingya who are also being accused of to be Bengalis from neighboring Bangladesh (Ahsan & Chakma, 1989;Islam, 1981) by Naypyitaw.

The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, U Thein Sein (Sathisan, 2013) and his fellow Buddhists including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Green, 2013Kipgen, 2013a) might believe that all Rohingyas are Bengalis and are Bangladeshi as per their appearance (Kipgen, 2013aParnini, 2013). If so, what do the two leaders of Myanmar think about those non-Bengalis living in Bangladesh whom are called ‘Hill People’ or Bangladeshi in general? These Bangladeshis’ appearances are similar to Rakhine (Mogh) or Burma (Myanmar) people of Naypyitaw? Would the Buddhists of Myanmar and their so called leaders accept this theory for those Mogh and Mogh-like population in Bangladesh? If it is answered ‘No’, then why are they allegedly accusing Rohingya (Kipgen, 2013b) of being recent immigrants and Bengalis too?

Logically, we could interpret the theory, “All Bengalis are Bangladeshi but all Bangladeshis are not Bengalis” as — all Rohingyas are Bengalis by appearance is true in somehow as the phenotype (e.g., skin color, height, face, nose, etc.,) of a few number of Rohingyas are like Bengalis in a population of more than 2.5 million. Conversely, if we say Mogh and Mogh-like people are more than 100% similar to Myanmar Rakhines who had been claiming Arakan as their ancestral should become Bangladeshi as well automatically. Practically, we found that the Rohingyas (Siddiqui) of Myanmar who had migrated to Bangladesh as refugees couldn’t become Bangladeshi after more than two decades of their stay. Why? Although Rohingyas are similar to Benglalis by appearance that U Thein Sein always believes but still there are many variances like culture, language and life style etc., which permanently barred them to be a real Bengali or Bangladeshi. If we look again towards Mogh of Bangladesh, there are no such variations to hinder them from becoming Rakhine ethnic Myanmar citizens. We could now easily understand the stance of Myanmar president which is merely ignorance of Myanmar Muslim rights.

Finally, I would like to develop a new formula for the ethnic Rohingya (Alam, 2011) here. It is that ‘All Rohingyas are Myanmar Muslims (Embassy, 2013Pugh) but all Myanmar Muslims are not Rohingyas.’ By appearance, a Rohingya may be called a Bengali, Hindu, Mongoloid, Arab, an Indo-Malay, Chinese, Christian, Jews, etc. By geographical location, all Rohingyas are Myanmar Muslims1 as they had been living in Burma (Myanmar) for centuries. In term of ethnicity, they must be called “Rohingya” (Walton, 2013) which is internationally recognized as the name for minority Muslims from Arakan (Feigenbaum, 2013). And Rakhines were called Moghs and they suddenly become Rakhine with the change of the name ‘Arakan to Rakhine’. As they knew that as long as Arakan is existed, the name Rohingya will be existed too and Moghs on the other hand for them. And the name Burma has been changed into Myanmar as well as we know that Burma was a name used by British after colonization of her. Many readers truly may laugh after knowing that there is a country in the world which has had changed many names including the color and structure of her (Englehart, 2005) flag but she still remains underdeveloped, uncivilized, undemocratic, inhumane, illiterate and so many odds and dots(Lewa, 2009).

Therefore, it could be recommended for Dhaka and Naypyitaw to debate properly on these home-made theories I have analyzed. If the first theory remains true, no positive solution would be found. If the latter remains intact, a fruitful solution would be occurred. If the latter theory I have proposed is not observed, the country may divide after few years. And there is no history in the world that hatred, war, jealousy, bigotry, terrorism and hate speech win the hearts of the millions. But they usually fail leaving with scars and regrets. And it takes normally centuries to cure those scars and returns to her normal. Myanmar is a country which could be named as ‘The Golden Land’ but it is not because of its many thousands of golden colored Pagodas in Pagan and other cities.

Of course, it is because of its people who are not hostile towards other faiths, communities or people and they are friendly and sympathetic (Graham-Rowe, 2005). I believe that Myanmar will see true democracy if it would choose the path of love, trust, education, multi-nationalism, communal interaction by openness of freedom of wishes of the people. Travels restriction on Muslims should be suspended and promote the domestic tourism so that it become more open for different sister communities (De Vos, 1995Deepadung & Dumsa-Ard, 2007Smith). Would it be possible? Yes, just we need discipline, trust each other, love each other and respect of human rights. One day, all Rohingya may become modernized, well-educated, socialized but Myanmar will regret for them.

1Refers to religion only not Rohingya


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 Zahir Uddin Mohammed Babar is Exclusive writer for Burma Times
PG Student, Department of Basic Medical Sciences Faculty of Pharmacy International Islamic University Malaysia.