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Rohingya Muslims: Junta’s prey


Rohingya Muslims dubbed illegal immigrants by Myanmar’s totalitarian regime  
Till 1784, the ancestors of today’s refugees ruled the Muslim kingdom of Arakan, known in ancient times as Rohang.
Today it is one of the 14 provinces of Myanmar, touching Bangladesh in the west, 250 km from India’s border. But the 1.4 million Rohingya Muslims have been dubbed illegal immigrants by Myanmar’s totalitarian regime.
The Rohingyas, who come from Arab, Moor, Bengali and Indo-Mongoloid stock have lived in Arakan since the 8th century. Their fortunes have been on the slide ever since Myanmar became independent in 1948, when they went unrepresented in the new union.
Successive regimes have carried out at least 13 armed operations, the worst in 1978, when three lakh Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. But Myanmar took them back.
Myanmar had its revenge with a Citizenship Law in 1982 which laid down three types of citizenship. All ethnic groups who settled in Myanmar before 1823 – when the British invaded Arakan – are called ‘nationals’.
The ones who sought citizenship during British rule are put in the ‘associate’ category. Others can become ‘naturalised citizens’ on application. But the junta deemed that the Rohingyas were not nationals. For an already weary community, hope of a home becomes dimmer by the day.