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All you need to know about Rohingyas and the ongoing crisis

Roughly 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in the country at the moment. They have been denied citizenship since 1982, leaving them stateless. Photograph: (DNA)

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Sep 06, 2017, 02.11 AM (IST)

Rohingyas of no man's land -- Who are they?

Rohingyas are frequently described as the world's most persecuted social minority group. For centuries, the marginalised Muslim group have been living in Rakhine state in Buddhist dominated Myanmar.

As much as 90% of Myanmar's population follow Buddhism. Rohingyas are not recognised as citizens and are considered illegal migrants. The South Asian country has 135 official ethnic groups and Rohingyas are not one of them.

Roughly 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in the country at the moment. They have been denied citizenship since 1982, leaving them stateless. The group is confined to the western coastal state of Rakhine and are not allowed to leave without the government's permission. The area does not have basic amenities and is, therefore, the poorest state of the country. 

Due to the ongoing disturbance, several thousands of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Where do they belong?

According to historians, Rohingyas have roots in Myanmar since the 12th century. Historians say Rakhine state has been inhabited by them since time immemorial.

During the times when British had colonised a major region of South Asia, several Muslims migrated from India and Bangladesh to Myanmar. Since Myanmar was considered a province of India under the British rule, the migration was considered legal and internal.

They were brought into British Burma as cheap labour. However, the locals and natives were not happy about this and when Myanmar got independence, they declared the Muslim groups as illegal.

The term Rohingya is rejected by the government and is called a recent invention for political reasons. Rohingyas are considered newcomers and outcast by the majority in the country.

However, after independence, the government allowed Rohingya families living in Myanmar for at least two generations to apply for ID cards or citizenship. Some from the group were also serving in Parliament.

Things changed for them after the 1962 military coup - they were given foreign ID cards - thereby limiting educational and employment opportunities.

In 1982, the new citizenship law declared them stateless. The only way for them to obtain naturalised citizenship was to provide proof of their family living in Myanmar prior to 1948 and speak any of the national languages fluently.

Otherwise, the 1.6 per cent of the country's population was denied work, study, religious, health, voting and marital rights.

The ongoing crisis

In late August, in an act of protest, Rohingya insurgents attacked the country's army base and police posts. The military, in return, started firing. Unarmed and innocent people were shot by the government.

At least 10 areas of Rakhine state have been affected. As a result, more than 50,000 people have fled and thousands are still trapped in borders of Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Bangladesh has refused to let more Rohingyas enter.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army is a group formed to "defend, salvage and protect the community".

However, it is considered a "terrorist" organisation by the government. The group claims responsibility for the attack in August.  According to the government, nearly 400 people were killed, the majority of whom were members of the ARSA. Rights groups, however, say hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces.  

This is termed as the biggest humanitarian crisis by the United Nations.



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