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Hindus of Myanmar suffer as much as the Rohingyas

Hindus in Burma go back to British colonial time in the region Photograph: (Others)

Dhaka, Dhaka Division, Bangladesh Sep 14, 2017, 11.13 AM (IST) Saad Hammadi

Violence in Myanmar has not only pushed Rohingya Muslims but also Hindus from their homes to Bangladesh. I visited the Hindu communities that have sheltered the migrants in the border areas across Cox's Bazar

We have heard about Rohingya Muslims coming from Myanmar to Bangladesh fleeing the persecution that they have been facing for decades but we have not heard much about the Hindus of Myanmar who have been facing similar persecution and have sought shelter in Bangladesh in places across Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar. One of such persons is Chitta Ranjan Pal. 

In speaking to WION, Chitta Ranjan Pal, Hindu migrant from Burma pointed out, "An insurgent group has waged a movement against the government in Myanmar. We have moved to Bangladesh in the face of their atrocities. This group had confined us for eight days in our village and did not let us go outside for groceries or even get water. After some days we got to know that they killed many Burmese Hindus at Fakirabazar, two kilometres away from our village. 

After some days we got to know that they killed many Burmese Hindus at Fakirabazar, two kilometres away from our village. 
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We came to know that they killed 86 people in that village and the same happened in another Hindu village. We discussed among ourselves and then asked them do you plan to kill us after keeping us hostage, instead set us free and we will leave. They were nice to us for a few days after we talked but later we learnt that they planned to kill us by bombing.

The Burmese government gave us a card which says we are Indian. We go by that card."

An estimated 500 Hindus have fled to Bangladesh since the violence erupted in Myanmar. Like the Rohingya Muslims are identified as Bengali settlers in Myanmar, the Myanmar government identifies the Hindus of its land as Indians.

Their misery of identification does not end there. Since the violence erupted in the last week of August, insurgent groups in Myanmar have killed at least 86 members of their community.

A Muslim family helped us escape to this camp because we gave them word that we will convert to their religion.
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Another Hindu migrant from Burma, Rekha Dhar had the most gruesome account of the fate they encountered. Speaking to WION, she said, "They hacked my husband to death, looted my house and husband’s jewellery store. They had black outfits and faces covered so that we could not identify them. They killed all the people of my area and kept only eight of us women alive. We fled our homes to this place. A Muslim family helped us escape to this camp because we gave them word that we will convert to their religion. My husband had a gold store where he had 30 tolas gold, all of which they looted. Even the little jewellery we had on ourselves or the children, they looted them too. Eight of us women came here but the men could not. They killed them all. 

We came here walking for two days across the hills. They saved us because we promised to let go of our belief. If we refused, they would have killed us."  

As scores of Myanmar nationals, including Rohingyas and Hindus flee homes in masses to Bangladesh, prices of essentials such as rice and materials for makeshift huts, such as plastic sheets and bamboos have increased in the bordering regions.

The cost of living has increased in Ukhiya. This is one of the most impoverished areas in Bangladesh. The camps of plastic sheets and bamboos are increasing in number every passing hour. This has also made business for some locals here. On the other end, the Myanmar migrants say they are being pushed into misery for no fault of theirs. Whether it is the insurgents or the Myanmar army, these people are simply victims of a bloody civil war in Myanmar. 

 

Saad Hammadi

Saad Hammadi is WION's Bureau Chief in Bangladesh. An investigative journalist for more than a decade, he has reported about terrorism, politics, human rights and business.

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