Courier Asks: Will the Rohingya crisis define Bangladesh, 2017?

Thursday, December 28th, 2017


The plight of the Rohingya, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority that our chauvinistic neighbours in Myanmar still fail to acknowledge, refusing to accept their claims in mostly northern portions of the state of Rakhine, where 1.9 million Arakanese Buddhists wish to remain unchallenged in perpetuity. As the Rohingya population in the state was estimated at 1.3 million, naturally the seeds of tension were laid out for all to see – back without stringent conditions – their own, and only those –  governing the process of repatriation, is well-known among Bangladeshis. We also know enough of the past episodes to similarly recognize that there is something particularly acute about the present crisis. This is why the Final Solution has been mentioned by Jewish discussants who would like to press through their sheer numbers to attest to that.


According to a Boxing Day update of the Inter Sectoral Coordination Group, an IOM-convened aid and social work consortium working in Cox’s Bazar, the wave that started last August 25 now contributes an overwhelming 655,000 of the 867,000 Rohingya refugees now living in Bangladesh. Even if Myanmar were sincere about taking them back, this is an issue that is bound to stay with us for a long, long time to come. Eventually, it may well take our assent to their wilful and deliberate assimilation into our society as the only solution to this long-standing problem. With no signs of movement as yet on a highly dubious repatriation process, preparations for which continue to amble along, that may be nothing but an exercise in leading lambs to the slaughter.


While our response to the Rohingya crisis has been from the start held up  in its humanitarian aspect, even pragmatism may find its hands largely tied, in the absence of a partner in Nay Pyi Taw that Dhaka can repose faith in or fully trust. Let us frankly admit some home truths, even stepping aside on  policy towards Asia in general over the last 12 months (that has been at best sketchy), has yielded no positive outcome. Some of our ideas came up for correction or what they often call ‘tweaking’- which I believe means your changes don’t show on the log. So they’re meant to be cosmetic.


The crisis of the Rohingya though, at any level whatsoever, one would find very difficult to forget. It certainly is not cosmetic. America in this day and age is looking not to its immigrant or minority population but rather its white, educated, ‘MAGA coalition’ as it were, to take on and deliver victory against its own people by the same guys who helped them set up – the white males, often not college-educated, across the board over a certain age, people you knew who probably didn’t mean anything to harm folks, but just got distracted along the way to some other, related but unshared goal.


SUre, there should be no place for the kind of aggressive pressure tactics employed by the sector to suit an earlier less adventurous era, but that also doesn’t mean that a bunch of elites should be allowed to get away with anything.


The truth is, the masses of foreign journalists and media professionals that have descended on , simply desire a clean bed and running water. Any luxury above that will obviously not be turned away, but no hard feelings if you can’t provide it.  The reason we’re glad today that the Economist has held back rather than rewarded us its rather playful follow up is, in point of fact, due to new revelations regarding other irregularities, plus previous ones that now have expired.


There is a crisis centring the Rohingya out of Arakan, we will do well this time to acknowledge at least this much. The Chittagong-Arakan unity in history that is preserved in tatters, must never fray. But that does not mean a sovereign nation’s fortunes, those of its people, will wither in the face of requests made by refugee families. That is the gradual climb-on effect of large-scale social and cultural changes. Even in this day and age, we remain helpless to alter them.


The Rohingya fled to Bangladesh over four months starting in the fall of 2017. They came many times before. And they will in the future also, until their state is ready. God willing.

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