Slave trading of Portuguese was a very interesting thing during the Mrauk-U period. They made their settlements in Goa, Sandwip Islands and Chittagong.From mid 16th century onwards; their main trade was slave hunting. The barbarous methods with which the Protuguese, in some cases with collaboration of Magh, procured, transported and sold human being as slaves would over shadow the previous practices of slavery. The mid 17th century historian Shahabuddin Talish gives an wful but vivid description of the human hunting by the Magh-Frenghi piraies of the kingdosn of Arakan. He writes: Arakan pirates both Magh and Frenghi used constantly the route of water to plunder Bengal. They carried off Hindus and Muslims, males and females, great and small, few and many that they could seize, pierced the plums of their hands, passed thin cane through the hole and threw them one above the other, under the deck of then ships. In the same manner as grain is flung to fowls, every morning and evening they threw down uncooked rice from above to the captives, as food.200 Bernier, a French physicist and traveier of that time, writes: Those Portuguese pursued no other business than that of rapine and piracy. They scoured the neighboring seas in light galleys, entered the numerous arms and branches of the Ganges, ravened the islands of lower Bengal and often penotiating foity or fifty leagues up the country, surprised and carried away the entire population of villages on market days, at times, when the inhabitants were assembled for celebration oi a marriage or some of the festivals. The marauders made slaves of their unhappy captives and burnt whatever could not be removed.201
Manucci, another traveler (from Venice) gives the same description as those of Bermer. He says, these inhabitants (Portuguese) inflicted great damage on the islands of Bengal and penetrating with their boats into all parts of the province, carried off men, women and children, gold and silver and when they could get they did not hesitate to carry off babies at the breast along with their mothers.When these babies cried at night they would, with unheard of cruelty, snatch them from their mother’s arms and threw them into the sea.202
Portuguese priest Friar Manrique writes about the slave hunting expedition of his compatriots as follows:-
Here (in Bengal) they (the pirates of Arakan–Chittagong) used to sack and destroy all the villages and settlements on the bank of Ganges to a distance of two or three leagues up streams and besides removing all the most valuable things they found, they would also take captives any people with whom they came in contact.203
Manrique who happened to be in Chittagong in 1630s admitted, “the Portuguese took leading part in the raids of plundering, only occasiunally a few Magh’s Gelias following in their wake.204 The Portuguese wese given especial privileges during the time of Min Phalaung (a) Sikander Shah (1571-1593) and Mm Razagyi (a) Salim Shah (1593-1512) Guerriro writes almost all the ports of Chittagong has been given over to the Portuguese who live there. He (Salim Shah) remitted the duties on trade. He gave stipend who served him and gave facilities to missionaries.205
The people captured by the pirates were in their consideration no better than drumdirven animals. Talish writes of their pathetic as follows: Many high born persons and Syeds, many pure and Syed born women were compelled to undergo the disgrace of slavery, services or concubinage of these wicked men. Talish to emphasize the nature of the piracy reproduced words of a pirate. When Nawab Shayista Khan inquired a runaway Portuguese pirate about their salary, the latter replied. “Our salary was the imperial dominion. We consider the whole of Bengal as our Jagir. All the twelve months of the year we made our collection, i e booty without trouble. We had not to bother ourselves about amias and amins, not had we render account and balances to anybody. Passages over water were our (field) service. We never slackened the enhancement of our rent viz. booty. For years we have left no arrears of their revenue. We have with us papers of the division of the booty village by village for the last forty years. 206
Bernier writes it is owing to the repeated depredations that we see so many fine islands at the mouth of Ganges, formerly thickly populated, now entirely deserted by human beings and other wild beasts.207
Manucci states that these inhabitants (Portuguese) inflicted a great damaged on the islands of Bengal.208
Tallish described the wide spread destruction caused by the Magh-Frenghi plundering raids on the Delta, i.e Bengal as an eyewithness. As they (the pirates) for a long time continually practice piracy, their country prospered and their numbers increased, while Bengal became more and more desolate, less and less able to resist and fight them. Not a household was left on both sides of the rivers in their track from Decca to Chittagong. The district of Bakla, a part of Bengal, lying in their usual path was formerly full of cultivation and yielded every year a large amount to the imperial Government as duty on its betel nuts. They swept it with the broom of plunder and abduction leaving none to inhabit a house or kindle a fire in the entire tract.209
According to Manrique, a Portuguese, the raiding was pronounced to be just the Provincial Council of Goa. The Portuguese government as well encouraged her people and defended this practice. During the five years (1629 – 1634 A.D.), I spent in the kingdom of Arakan; some eighteen thousand captives were brought to the port of Diang and Angarcale.210
The importation of the slaves into the kingdom of Arakan produced far-reaching results. With the constant arrival of a large numbers of captives the size of the population of the kingdom of Arakan increased considerably. Sometimes the imports of such wretched victims reached such greatness that according to an estimate between 1621 and 1627 A.D. the Protuguese brought to Chittagong 42 000 slaves.211
Burmese chronicles also testify this slave trade of Protuguese in Arakan. In the siliver Jubilee Bulletin of Rangoon University History Research Department, it is described to have brought about three thousand slave every years.U Hla Tun Phyu, an Arakanese senior politican, in his Arakan’s treasure troves he describes amoung the slaves there were several technocrats, they were not allowed to be exported. So in this regard relation between Arakan King and the Dulch turned sour. He futher describes the number of captives and the name of boats carried them from 1624 to 1666. He emphasizes the trades of Arakan then was in the hands of Mohammedans, Hindus and Armenians.212
According to Dr. S. B. Kiinango in Arakan proper these captured Muslinis accounted for no less than one sixth of the total population. The Muslims in Arakan are known as Kalas who are supposed by Sir Arthur Phayre to be of Bengali descents. He writrs the Arakanese (Magh) appear to have sent a number of inhabitants of Bengal into Arakan as slaves whence arose the present Kalah (foreigners) population of the country which formed 15% of the whole population. Arakan Muslims preserve the language of their ancestors for colloquial purposes, but always use the Burmese in writing. They have also adopted the dress of the country with the exception of the Gaung-Boung or headdress.213
The number of these Kalah people settling in the valley of the greatest river of Arakan was so great that it is said that the river. “Kaladan”, is named after Kalahs or foreigners. 214 In this connection Albert Fytche Says, Kaladan, i.e. limit or border of the Kalah or western foreigners St. John thinks the name is derived from Dan, a place; and Kola, a foreigner as it was on this river that the kings of Arakan located their Bengali slaves.215
Foreign travelers of that time say these captives were subjected to most cruelly and hard labor Bernier writes that Shah Shujah during his armed rebellion against the Arakanese king in 1661 gained the local Muslims who were mostly of slaves origins [In fact these people were not slaves by descends but forced captives) The abortive coup proved calamitous to the Muslims who suffered much at the hands of Royal troops.216 Shah Alaol, a Muslim minister of Sanda Thudamma, and eminent poet and writer, was also one of the sufferers. He was imprisoned and kept in a miserable condition but later released by the request of other Muslim ministers and courtiers.217 In this period, on the ground of showing sympathy to the fugitive Mogul Prince, Muslims were massacred. Some say all who wearing a beard in a Moorish fashion were beheaded. Thus thousands of Muslims had to flee for safety into Bengal. These exiles or their descendants in East Bengal until todays aie known as “Rowengi” i.e. people from Arakan.
Here Shah Alaol (Allah wall) was the most famous and reputed Bengali writer of 17th century. Most remarkable thing is all his works were done in Arakan, under the patronizationof an alien king. He too was one of the captives, kidnapped in his boyhood days, during aboat journey with his father. He was kidnapped by the Portuguese: his father was killed in the short fighting. Finally he was brought to Arakan. As a talented man, he soon rose to prominence as a member of Royal bodyguards (Sarwar). His literary genius soon attracted the notice of the Muslim noblemen of the Royal court under whose influential support, the poet wrote his important works.218
R. B. Smart writes: The Arakan king in former times had possession of all along the coast as far as Cnittagong, and Decca and many Mohammedans were sent to Arakan as slaves. Large numbers were said to have been brought by Min Razagyi (1492-1512) after his first expedition to Sandwip (Island), and the local history relates that there were some Arab settlements in Arakan. (Today), they differ but little from the Arakanese (Magh) except in their religion and in the social customs which their religion directs,in writing they use Burmese, but amongst themselves employ colloquially the language of their ancestors. Long residing in this enervating climate and the examples set them by the people among whom they have resided for generations have had the effects of rendering these people almost as indulgent and extravagant as the Arakanese themselves. They have so got out of the habit of doing hard manual labor that they are now absolutely dependant on the Chittagonian coolies, to help them over, the most arduous of their agricultural operations: Ploughing, reaping and the other earth works.219
Portuguese relation with Arakan grew well in the liine of Min Razagyi (1593-1612).For some times there arose some problems during the reign of Min Khamaung (a) Hissein Shah (1612-1622 A.D.). But they served the Arakan king. In the words of Harvey, they served the Arakanese in holding Sandwip Island. Noakhali, Bakergunje and Sandarband and in raiding up to Decca and even Murshid Abad………. In a single month in February 1727, they carried off 18,000 captives from southern parts of Bengal; the king chose the artisans about one fourth to be his slaves, and the rest were sold at prices varying from Rs. 20 to Rs. 70 per head. They would pierce the hand of their captives: pass a string of cane through the hole, and filing them under the deck, strung together like hens………. Sometimes the Maghs would sail back to the coast where they have captured their prisoners and wait till the village brought out sufficient present to redeem their kinsmen from the ship. This they call collecting revenue and the Portuguese among them kept regular account books. Their activities decreased when the English began to police the coast, but even in 1795, they were plundering the king of Burma’s boats off Arakan. Laden with his customs dues 10% in kind. They have regular forts in the mouth of Megna River, and here and there a few of them settled in the Ganges Delta, for a little colony of 1500, speaking Arakanese and wearing
Burmese dress, still survive on four or five islands in the extreme south-east of Bakergunje.220 These Arakanese were repatriated into Arakan in the time of U Ne Win. Most of them settled in Akyab District now.
In the journal of Mannqne; a Portuguese priest, English translation of which was published in 1927 by Hukluyt society: He says the Frenghi brought no less than 34,000 slaves annually to Dianga.221
Manrique was quoted by Morice Collis to have witnessed a plundering boat by himself, where he found the captivcs’ language has many Persian and Arabic words, some boatmen were also Muslims, where his efforts to convert thern into Christianity was not successful. During his stay in 1626-1637, he witnessed 18000 captives brought by Frenghis. 222
These captives were settled in special areas guarded by Muslim soldiers.223 These captives were employed in several occupations. First, the kingdom of Arakan was a sparsely populated area, which required human labor for agriculture. A large number of these slaves were employed in agricultural actives. From Friar Manriques account, we come to know that a number of their captives were employed in the hllage of the land under the Portuguese tenancy. The Magh, as stated by Talish, employed all these captives in agriculture and other hind of services.
Secondly: All able bodied captives were reserved as rowers for the plundering ships. Bernier writes, those who were not disable by age, the pirates kept them in their service in training them up to the love of robbery and practice of assassination.
Thirdly, the captive women were appointed either as wives, concubines or household servants. Among the lot the young and fair looking women captives were lucky to be in better position.
Fourthly; a large number of these captives were kept in the service of the king, Governors, Landlords, and people of upper class society. Of these slaves, Arakanese kings would pick out the best either in physique or in skill and employed them directly in his own service.
Fifthly; a great number of the captives were sold in the open market.224 The Dutch mostly bought and employed them in their Indonesian settlement.
INFLUENCE OF MUSLIMS DURING MEDIEVAL PERIOD
We have seen in eaily Chapters, present day Rohingya of Arakan, have a close genealogical and cultural link with the people of Wethali and Dannya Waddy periods Their contacts with Islam, according to Arak;inese chronicles trace back 8th century A. D.
Islam reached into the coast of Arakan fiom late 8th century A.D. Muslim traders and missionaries got continuous contacts with Arakan and Islam got rooted in Vesali from 8th century It grew larger in Lemyo age. The court bard of Mm Saw Muwn, Abdu Min Nyo wrote the famous poetry book “Rakhine Minthami Ayechan” is assumed to be a Muslim of late Lemyo age. But in present writings Abdu Min Nyo is found to be wiilten as Badu Min Nyo, a Rakhinized form. Whatsoever we don’t have substantial proofs to prove Abdu Min Nyo’s being Muslim, though his name sounds Muslim.
The gradual Muslim infiltration into political and cultural life of Arakan became more forceful during the reign of Min Tsaw Mwun, who with the help of Gaur king Sultan Jalaluddin Mohammed Shah (some say Nazir Shah) regained his throne in Arakan.225
According to G. H. Luce, once Professor of History in Rangoon University, in 14th century stone inscriptions of Chindwin. Aiakan kings were mentioned with Indian titles, and they were Muslims. He said when Muslims seized Bengal in eany 13th century; they penetrated up to Rakhine border. Undoubtedly Patti Kara (Comilla) was destroyed by them. They battled with chief and tribes around the border area. In this context many chieftains and followers turned Muslims, and perhaps some of them had shifted to the Burmese side of the border.226
Dr Than Tun, formerly chairman of Burma History Research Society, postulates the present day Muslim settlers in the northern Arakan might be descendants of those early people, because they (The Rohingyas) claimed to he in that part of Burma for more than a thousand years. If not thousand years it might at least be eight hundred years. 227
Although it is through legend, it is consensus among the Rohingya that there were little kingdoms of Muslims at many places in northern Arakan. The date and timing of their existence was not in accurate records. According to legend, Alia Beg of Baguna, Buthidaung, Mohammed Hanif of Minglagyi Mountain and Amir Hamzah of Golungi (Upper Pruma Valley) were of those kings. There are some legendary-like books (called Puthi in Rohingya dialect) narrating all detail affairs of these kingdoms. The legend of Hanifa, who conquered the tribes of Kayapuri (a tribal queen) and married her. They ruled over that area, having their palace on Minglagyi Mountain; local name until today of two peaks on Minglagyi Mountain are Hanifa Peak and Kayapuri Peak. There is still a Puthi (Legendary Book) book in the people’s hand, which described all the affairs of King Amir Hamzah of Gaulangi. It says Amir Hamzah tried to penetrate into inner Arakan, and there were wars with the kings of Wethali. But there is no proof that Amir Hamzah conquered Wethali. The Valley of Pruma is still locally known as Gaulanqi.
In medieval time, Arakan became closely related to Bengal. Historians say, along side with far ranging commercial links with Bengal, close cross-cultural ties were thereafter irremediably fastened between the Rakhine kingdom and Bengal.228 Because, Narameikhia and his family spent over 22 years in exile amid Muslim cultures and as a nominal vassalage of Sultan of Gaur, the Rakhine kingdom was strongly influenced by Bengal culture. Hence Narameikhia employed Muslim titles in his coins and inscuplions; albeit he and his subject remained Buddhist. He had to assign the revenue of his dominions in Bengal to the Sultan of Gaur to meet the expenses of helping him to recovet his thione. [But later we find in Rakhine Chronicles, Min Khari occupied Rarnu and Ba Saw Pru got control of Chittagong. This indicates Narameikhia: the first king of Mrauk-U dynasty had had no dominions in Bengal]
He was succeeded by his son (in reality his brother) Ali Khan (a) Min Khari. Thereafter nine Rakhine kings continued to be subject to Bengal until 1531, thus receiving their titles (i.e. Shah, Sheikh or Khan) as vassals of Bengal Sultanate. It is equally noteworthy that even after becoming independent of the Bengal Sultanate eight kings of the early Mrauk-U dynasty continued to use Muslim titles by traditions whilst court ceremonies and administrative methods continued to follow the customs of Sultan of Gaur. Thus one may be warranted in emphasizing that part of the reason for such customs may be ascribed to the fact that there were Muslims in ever greater numbers among their subjects, a number of them holding eminent posts in the kingdom.229 It is worthy of note that Muslims fulfilled official tasks in the Royal court throughout Mrauk-U period. They served in administration in the army and in various economic activities. Hence the Rakhine King Thiri Thudamma 1622-1638 had appointed a Muslim Counselor/Doctor. 230
Subsequently the Arakanese Kings employed Muslim civil servants. For example, controllers of Muslim quarters called Kaladan i.e. foreign dwellings were Muslims bearing the titles of Kalahwun. 231
The early days of the restoration of Mrauk-U monarchy in 1430 equally saw a steady influx of population of Islamic faith, chiefly mercenaiies from Afghanistan, Persia and even Turkey as well as traders from other parts of the Muslim world This influx of population did not modify significantly the demographic structure of Rakhine Kingdom, however, as they were few in numbers. The last mentioned settleis were calling themselves (and were designated) as Rohingyas.232
This group being predominantly Sunnites (despite the existence of some Shiite traditions) and high caste merchants, soldiers and nobles, belong to the king’s suite.Then ational nexus between Rohingya and the Rakhine kingdom was flowing from a higher legal nexus, i.e. the nominal vassalage of Rakhine kings to the Sultan of Gaur, which guaranteed Muslim subjects to be treated as equals to the Buddhist. Indeed a uniform treatment was applied for equal subjects of the king and as a result (albeit for their religion which they maintained). Rohingya easily merged with the existing Rakhine culture. Such acculturation is clearly exemplified by e.g. the change in dress [The fact that Muslim females lost the Indian Sari for Rakhine Thami (Sarong). Bazu (top) and Shawl (Scarf))], and other customs, which were the copies of customs followed by the local population such as consulting Astrologers, certain traditions relating to the engagement of the couples, to a certain extent the belief in Nats (Spirit) etc. 233
Muslim Subjugation: Muslim subjugation of Arakan from time to time undoubtedly increases the Islamic influence in Ihat country. In Poituguese sources give indirect evidence of Arakanese submission to the Hussein Shahi rulers of East Bengal.234 Here Dr Kunango, a specialist on Chittagnno history, says there was Muslim rule on a part of Arakan. After Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalimah Shah (1459-1482) and the successive kings Daulya (1462-1492), Ba Saw Nyo (1492-1494), Rang Aung (1494) and Salingha Thu (1494-1501) were very weak kings. They lost Chittagong and did not have Muslim titles (other sources say these kings, too had Muslim titles). Dr Kunango says Arakanese chronicle supplies indirect evidence of the Hussein Shahi’s occupation of Chittagong. In this period political situation in Arakan was deplorable and helpful to project of Bengal Sultan to subjugate Arakan. De Barros shows a large territory comprising southern Chittagong and a portion of Arakan under the jurisdiction of Codavascao (Khuda Baksh Khan). This is not possible unless Arakan had been brought into obediance. 235
Again in 16th century after the powerful monarch Min Bin (a) Min Bagyi (a) Zabouk Shah, chaos arose in Arakan. Bengal Gaur king Mohammed Shah Sur occupied Chittagong and a part of Arakan proper. Mohammed Shah Sur’s General forced Arakan king (perhaps Min Dikka (1553-1554) or Min Saw HIa (1554-1555) to submit to the authority of Bengal Sultan. Perhaps the Pathans conquered the principality of Ramu and some portion of modern Akyab Division. He ordered the striking of coins in 1555 A.D. The mint of these coins mentioned as Arakan. Eminent numismatist such as Mr N. B. Synyal, defending the reading of the coins hints that Mohammed Shah’s conquest of Arakan was real. He pointed out that the afore coins were not only the specimen of Mohammed Shah’s Arakan coins, but the coins preserved in British Museum also indicate the same reading. In this connection Dr. Kunango referred to Numismatists, Rodgers Lamepole, and Wright who expressed the same idea about the coins of Mohammed Shah, which were minted in the name of Arakan.236
It has been already observed that the conquest of Arakan by Mohammed Shah was followed by a prolong war with Doui Minikka of Tippera for about a year Chittagong was annexed by the Tippera king in 1556 after Mohammed Shah’s death. It was then under Tippera king for a decade. But Chittagnng was a bone of contention among Muslims, Tripura and Arakan. So it again after nearly a decade had fallen under Arakan’s control.
It is narrated in an Aiakan chronicle, so called Dannya Waddy Areydowpon, that there was an uprising of Kalah and Thet [in the time of Anulunmin]. General Damma Zeya was sent to put down the uprising in Bengal Damma Zaya repelled the Kalas from Chitlagong within five days but the Kalahs resisted from Decca A battle near Lakchipur was ensued and finally the Kalah Prince was defeated, and his army ran away in disarray. Then Damma Zeya marched up to Murshidabad and the king Dehlippa Shah retreated to Rum Pasha’s country.Kalah Prince was captured. He along with the body was sent to the king. General Sein Key was kept there to supervise Kalah Pyi and Damma Zeya returned with the captured Prince and half of his men. The Prince was given treatment. When he was cured, appointed as Governor of Akyab. His men were disarmed and put in the group of (Mauleik), household servants. Some were substituted in the Daingwin Ka group of Talaing and Kekyinn. There were a lot of Kalahs deployed on vanous works of life. Altogether 47,000 Kalahs were assigned on various special tasks and registered them for tuture records.237 Here it is a matter of perusal why a Prince who became war captive was appointed as Governor. Further this chionicle, which is regarded as to be the most authentic one, emphatically described, there were about 50.000 Kalah (Muslim) force in the army of Min Razagyi (1593-1612) in his campaign against Pegu and Martaban (Moulmein).
Assessment of other Arakanese Historians: As I have said, Arakanese historians were very cautious in mentioning the bright side of Rohingya. Nevertheless we find many valuable facts in their writings.
San Shwe Bu says Arakan being adjacent to Bengal and having greater intercourses, no doubt there were Muslims in Arakan even before Mrauk-U dynasty.238 U Aung Tha Oo says it is a fact that because of Muslim missionaries, some of Arakanese had converted to Islam.239 U HIa Tun Pru, a historian as well as a senior politician says during the reign of Min Bin (1531-1551 A.D.) three missionaries headed by U Kadir, from India arrived at Mrauk-U and did missionary works where as many Arakanese accepted Islam.240 Bon Pauk Tha Kyaw, an eminent politician of Arakan in his book “The Danger of Rohingya to the Union”, which was distributed amply before the election of 1990, categorized Arakan Muslims in three groups.
Group (1): Those captives who were taken away by Bodaw Pya’s army.
Group (2): Those who ran away to Bengal.
Group (3); Those who remained in Arakan.
Despite his attempt to highlight that Muslims in Arakan are latecomers from India or Bengal, he had to recognize their existence even before Burmese era.241 Major Tun Kyaw Oo (Rtd.) emphasized Rohingyas were not aliens but they are twins with Rakhine. He says early Aryan who entered Arakan branched into two groups One worshipping the Sun and the other worshipping the Moon. Candras of Wethali age were of those who worship Moon and some of them converted into Islam. The languages found in the inscription of Wethali age are very much nearest to the present day Rohingya language.242
Panditta U Oo Tha Tun Aung, honorary archeological officer of Mrauk-U Museum (Rakhine) writes: Min Saw Mun got back his throne with the help of Gaur Sultan and he shifted the capital to Mrauk-U in 1430 A.D. Arakan remained as vassalage of Gaur until 1531 A.D. In the time of ninth Mrauk-U King, Zaleta Saw Mun,three missionaries, Kadir, Musa and Hanu Mean from the country of Rum Pasha (Delhi Empire) came to Arakan to propagate their religion, Islam. They built Mosques all over the country and preached their religion among the people, daily. Some people believed in their faith and it spread all over the country. People converted in groups. They gave gifts to the king and he was very friendly with them. The preachers brought later other ministers from Delhi and Kadir built a Mosque at Baung Duet. Mrauk-U and other preachers, too, built such Mosques throughout the country. Their religion flourished much. But Saya Mra Wa raised a complaint with the king, at the time of Mm Bagyi, alarmed the king about the spread of new religion. Here the king stopped the missionary works. 243 [It is a translation of original Burmese book. Here utmost care is given not to deviate from the original meaning].
This missionary work and the spread of Islam in Arakan is not a strange thing. It is well known to all Burmese historians. We find these phenomena in Dannya Waddy Razwin Thit and in the works of U Ba Than, U Kyi, U Ba Shein, Dannya Waddi Sayadaw U Nyana and many others.
Commentaries of Foreign Writers: Dr. Kunango highlights, the favor shown by the Arakan king and courtiers to the Muslims, led to the growth of Muslim nobility in Arakan. According to Guerreiro a certain Rumi exercised a considerable power over the king. The works of Daulat Qazi and Alaol (Two Muslim ministers since the time of Thiri Thidamma (1632-1653 A.D.) give references to a number of Muslim nobles: e.g. Lashker Wazir, Asnraf Khan, Quraishi, Magon Takhur, Sulaiman, Syed Musa, Syed Mohammed Khan, Naverez Mujlis, Syed Shah etc. who held responsible posts in Arakan administration.244
Dr. Kanungo further says by quoting Shah Alaos works; Arakanese rulers patronized learned Muslims. Muslim influence made a deep mark on the society and administration of Arakan. Poet Alaol works referred to the participation of Muslim nobility in the coronation ritual of the Arakanese monarch. Naverez Mnjlis, a senior minister officially conducted the investiture ceremony of King Sanda Thudamma. The minister formally pronounced statements regarding the solemn duty and responsibilities and urged the new king to follow these. After the conclusion of the ceremony, the sworn king paid respect to the minister.245
Dr. Kanungo narrates, the contemporary sources state that Muslim officers like Qazi, Lashker Wazir, Chaukidars, Karbaries, etc. were frequently employed in the Arakan Government, Muslim manners and antiquities were introduced in the court of Arakan.
Portuguese priest, Manrique while he was staying in the court of Arakan, noticed that the visitors were required to pay Taslim, a Muslim mode of respect, before the king. He himself had to pay Six Taslims age by one, when he went to see the king. Manrique observed the differed coronation ceremony of Thiri Thudamma in 1632. He saw the arm forces that took part in the ceremony were composed of Muslims There were special Elephant and Horse Units exclusively of Muslims. He described the green velvet dress and bright swords of the armed units, in an interesting way. He further says the personeal Physician of the king was a Muslim and he had a great influence over the king. The king conversed with Manrique in Indian language.246
Niccolao Manucci, a noted Venetian traveler, in India from (1653–1703),in his Slona De Mogor Vol. I threw light on the Muslim population of Arakan. Muslim’s populations of Arakan roughly consist of four categories: namely, the Bengali, other Indian, Afro-Asian and natives. Among them the Bengali formed the largest of total Muslim population of Arakan. The inflow of captive Muslims from lower Bengal constituted much to the ever increasing of Bengali Muslims and they were called Kalahs by the Alakanese (Magh). Arakanese Muslims themselves introduce as Rohingyas to others.247
Thus Muslim culture and language had a dominant character in Arakan. Muslims can communicate in their own dialect with Rakhine until Buimese independence. Post independent period took a different cultural and linguistic trend. Rakhine and Burmese languages began to take dominant position. In the time of Arakanese kings and during the British period Muslim did not feel necessary to learn Rakhine language. However, Muslims who lived in the midst of Rakhine, speak Rakhine language well. So Francois Buchanan, a diplomat in Michael Syame’s mission at Ava in 1795 studied the languages of Burma, where he found two dialects, very much similar, in Aiskan, one Rovinga language, spoken by Muslims and other Rosswan language spoken by Hindus of Arakan. According to Buchanan both are much identical and of Indian stocks. He said he procured this from an Arakan Brahman and his son whom he met in Ava and they weie brought there (Amarapura) by the eldest son of Bodaw Pya on his return from Arakan episode This Brahman explained him the importance of their languages (Rovingo and Rasswan) in Arakan as a common language of Arakan. Buchanan expressed his wonder, “I don’t know why he (The Brahman) repeatedly says that theirs is the dominant language of Arakan.248
The study of this British diplomat leads us to the conclusion that Rohingya are not recent entrants into Burma, but a deeply rooted community in Arakan even before Burmese occupation of Arakan in 1786 A.D
When Bengal was seized by Mogul emperor Akbar in 1572, from the hand of Afghan king, many Muslim high-ranking officers had to flee into Arakan kingdom where they were warmly welcomed and offered high-ranking official posts. In early Mrauk-U period a steady influx of population of Islamic faith, chiefly meicenaries from Afghan, Persia and even from Turkey as well as traders from other parts of the Muslim world reached Arakan.249 Dr. Kanungo adds to it that Arakanese required their (the exile’s) services in fighting out the enemies, the Mogul and the Portuguese, all of who were the enemies of Pathans too. Due to their martial vigor they were appointed to the responsible posts such as Rwaza, Kyunza, both meaning headman.250 In this connection Bernier, a French Physicist who lived in India nearly for a decade says, “although the king of Rakhan be a gentile, yet there are many Mohammedans mix with the people, who have either chosen to rctire among them or forcibly brought from Bengal as slaves.251 The growth of Muslim population in the kingdom of Arakan was due mainly to the bringing of a large number of captive Muslims by the Magh (the name formerly known to the westerners) and Frenghi pirates from lower Bengal.
D.G.E.Hall’s assessment is, Mohammedanism spread to Arakan but failed to make much impression upon its Buddhism. Mrohong had its Saudi Khan (Historic) Mosque and its kings assumed Mohammedan titles, but the predominance of Buddhism was never shaken.252 He further remarks from the early Christian era Buddhism spread into Arakan. At the same time Islam took root through the Arabs. This fact is obviously seen in the existing of Muslim religious buildings along side with its Buddhist ones.
Official Version: The state sponsored publication, during U Ne Win’s “Ma-Sa-La” period says though Arakan kings were Buddhists, they gave freedom to all other religions such as Brahmanism. Christianity, and Islam; thus from Wethali to Mrauk-U ages, Christian and Muslim religious buildings were allowed to build allover the country.253
Present SLORC/SPDC Government also recognizes this existence of Muslims from early period. In its publication “Sasana Rongwa Tunzepho”254 in 1997, it says, Islam spread in Arakan from 8th and 9th centimes. It got its route into Burma proper through Arakan. Duringthe reign of Ava Sane Min in 1709 A.D., more than three thousand Muslims from Arakan absconded into Burma [It is perhaps due to the suppressive measures of Arakan King Sanda Wiziya (1710-1730)] These Muslims were settled in 12 different places such as, Taungoo, Yamethin, Nyaung Yan, Yindaw, Meik Htilar, Pintalae, Taphetswei, Bodi, Thazi, Setottaya, Myedu and Dipeyin.255
U Khin Maung Yin of Bassein College says, this group of people due to their martial character, later, recruited by Bodaw Pya in his army and they were employed in his march to Arakan.256 These recruitments of Arakanese Muslims were also found in Bodaw Pya’s official Gazettes, with their particulars. The recruits from Myedu were posted at Sandoway where their descendants were until recently known as Myedu Muslim. They numbered 4,681 in 1930 British census.
Bodaw Pya’s Muslim recruits took active parts in the first Anglo-Burma war. Perhaps there were many Arakanese Muslims in Bandoola’s army. Some even assume Bandoola to be a Muslim from Dapyi Yin. But no concrete proofs for this claim is found. These Muslim force fought tail and nail. For example Abdul Karim (a) Bo Maung Gale heading five hundred men stationed at the south of Theingyi Talk. They fought the enemy man to man with their horses. He was a military expert but caught up by the British. He was offered high-ranking post. But he did not betray, and did not take side with the British. Many other Arakanese Muslims did pay active military services. So at the request of these Muslim forces, king Ba Gyi Daw allowed them to build two Mosques in Rangoon, one in Peinetgon quarter and the other at the side of present day Aung San Sport Stadium. The latter presently, is known as “Tachanpet Bali”. These Mosques are still Rakhine Pali or Ball in their registration.
When the British removed its garrison from Mrauk-U to Akyab in 1826, they found a few modern temples in Akyab, which are interesting in as much as their architectural style is a mixture of Burmese turreted Pagoda and the Mohammedan four-cornered minaret structure, surmounted by a hemispherical cupola The worship too is mixed, both temples were visited by Mohammedans and Buddhists and Budder Mokan has also its Hindu votaries. The Budder Mokan is said to have been founded in 1756, by the Muslim in memory of one Badder Aulia, whom they regard as an eminent Saint.257
Further Dannya Waddy Areydawbon, narrated there were Muslim settlements and Muslim Mrowun (Mayors) in Akyab. Despite all these historic records all Muslims in Arakan today are subject to official discrimination and treated as aliens.
ARAKANESE PATRONIZATION OF BENGALI LITERATURE
Many Rohingyas, in remote places, cannot speak Rakhine or Burmese language properly, not because they are recent entrants but because, historically they were in full freedom to develop their own language. Until Burmese independence their language, informally, was the common language of communication at least in northern Arakan. Their dialect most similar but not identical to Chittagonian, was very influential in the time of Magh (Rakhine) reign. Dr. Kanungo says politically Chittagong was subjugated by Arakan, but culturally it was Arakan, which was greally influenced by a stronger culture and a more powerful language.
A number of competent Bengalis were appointed to high Government posts.258 People of all ranks enjoyed the literary beauty of Bengali works. One of the foremost factors for the phenomenal growth of Bengali literature in the view of Dr. Anamul Haq was the superiority of Bengali language on the Arakanese.259
Dr.Sukumer Sen rightly says, from this time Bengali was accepted at the Arakan court as the chief cultural language,mainly because many of the high officials of Arakan came from Chittagong and other neighboring territories whose mother tongue was Bengali.260
Arakanese rulers, especially in 17th century gave encouraging support to the cultivation of Bengali literature. Their king’s enthusiasm inspired the same feeling in their Bengali courtiers under whose care and guidance, some gifted Muslim poets wrote many of their master pieces.261 It is really amusing to note that the Bengali literature was being cultivated in a foreign country under the patronage of alien rulers. The most interesting of all is that being in deadly hostility with the Moguls in their foreign relations the Arakanese monarchs at home granted the greatest privileges to the Muslims, extended patronage to the Islamic culture and gave influential support to the Muslim poets in their literary persuits.262
Dr. Sukumer Sen writes Daulat Qazi, the most gifted poet of medieval Bengali literature, under the aegis of Ashraf Khan, the commander in chief of the king’s army, translated “Laura Chandrani“, a romantic tale of northern India. But he could not live to finish that piece, which was completed by another Bengali author. It was a famous and widely read book in Arakan and copies are found in the hands of many Rohingya. Another gifted but comparatively little known poet of the court of Raja Thiri Thudamma was Mardan, author of Nasira Nama, but little is known about the poet’s carrier fiom his works. But it is said he is Arakanese by birth. By far the most widely known poet among the Arakanese court Poet was Alaol. In his early life his poetical potentiality attracted the notice of Suleiman, an Arakanese courtier who requested the poet to complete the work of Laura Chanda Rani, which had been left unfinished by his illustrious predecessor Daulat Qazi. With the completion of this work, his poetic fame spread all over the kingdom Magon Siddiq Takur, an influential Arakan courtier of literary merit, requested Alaol to translate the well-known Peisian romantic poem on Saiful-Mulk-Badiyuzzamal, into Bengali. Unfortunately for the poet the patron did not live long to see the work finished. The untimely death of Magun Takur, so much overpowered the poet with grief that he practically gave up writing anymore. Luckily for the poet Mohammed Musa, Commander of Royal Army appeared as a rescuer who saved the poet from grief and distress. He assured the poet of genuine help and requested him to get through the work. It was accordingly done under the care of same pation. The port translated the Poet Nazami’s “Hafta Payakar” into Bengali. Another work is the translation of Tuhfa of Yusuf Gada, a Persian writer.
After suffering a great deal at the hand of Arakanese king (Sanda Thudamma) in connection with his alleged collaboration with Shah Shujah s revolt against the Arakanese ruler, the poet again took his pen under the protection of Nevuiez MujIis (Sanda Thudarnina’s chief minister) and translated Poet Nizami’s (another) work, named Iskander Nama into Bengali as Sikander Nama. (In the early nights of dry season, whenever they got leisure time, Rohingyas used to recite and listen, in big gathering, this Sikander Nama, almost in every village. And the gathering is usually entertained with betel, tea and cheroots, where as in some cases the owner of the house where they gathered served them with a feast. It has been a life tradition in Rohingya of Arakan).
It is an admitted fact that Alaol is the greatest figure among the 17th century Bengali writers. As many sided genius as he was, he showed high power of imagination, mastery of versification, profound learning in both Islamic and Hindu scriptures and skill in a number of languages. He was proficient in writing Puthi and Pardavati to an equal degree.
An interesting feature of the history of Bengali literature is that in 16th century, the Hindu poets took a leading part in the cultivation of Bengali literature, under the patronization of Muslim rulers, but in 17th century the Muslim poets came to the forefront in the cultivation of Bengali literature under the patronization of non-Muslimrulers in an alien country, Arakan. It is generally amusing to note that the greatest poet of 17th century was a Muslim (Alaol), who wrote high Sanskritized Bengali where as the greatest poet of 18th century was a Hindu, Bharat Chandra,whose language is marked by a profuse use of Pcisian diction.263
Alaol patron Magoh Takur also, was a poet of no small merit. The title of Takur was conferred on him by Arakan ruler who used to confer that title on persons of the highest rank and distinction. One of his poetical compositions was the Chandra Vati, a story of love between Prince Barbhan with one Princess Chandra Vati. Magon Takur died most probably in 1660.
Another important Muslim Poet and writer was Abdul Karim Kandakhar. He said his great grand father, Rasul Mia, was a custom officer under the Arakan king, while his grand father, Masan Ali, was an interpreter at the port where foreign ships and merchants used to come. Abdul Karim’s father Ali Akbar also was a man of learning. Abdul Karim under patronage of a wealthy merchant, Siddiq Nana Atiabar, translated into Bengali a Persian work entitled Dulla Majlis in 1789. Previously he had composed two other works, Hajar Masail, Tarnam Anjari, also on the basis of Persian work. Abdul Karim in his Dulla Majlis mentioned the village of Bandar, Mrohong, where they regularly, gathered in Mosques and discussions on learning and religion took place.264
Poet Alaol’s father was a courtier of Majlis Qutub of Faridpur (Bengal). Once while going by boat through one of the rivers in lower Bengal, the father and son were attacked by the Portuguese pirates. The father was killed during the battle that ensued while Alaol was wounded and taken prisoner. Later on he found himself in Arakan, where he had been a cavalry officer of Arakan king. Besides being a good soldier, however, Alaol was a great scholar, poet and musician, having perfect command of a number of languages: Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali and Hindi. Soon his qualities attracted the notice of Magon Siddiq Takur, who was chief minister of two successive Arakan kings from 1645-1660. Alaol’s grave (Burial site) is still found with a little tomb in Myauk Taung village, Kyauk Taw Township.There was a Muslim village before 1942 communal riot. Under Magon Siddiq’s patronization Alaol wrote many books.
CANDRAS AND THE PRESENT DAY RAKHINES
The present day Rakhme as is explained in chapter one and two, couldn’t be genealogically the same as to the people of Dannya Waddy and Wethali dynasties. Those early people were Aryan in descends. They claimed to be Candra Bamshi, descendants from the moon. After all they are Indians, very much like to the people of Bengal. The scriptures of those early days found in Arakan, indicate that they were in early Bengali script and hence the culture there also was Bengali
Dr. Kanungo says the Shitthaung Temple Pillar supplies a long list of Candra rulers, reigning for more than five hundred years. The first king of this lineage was Bala Chandra who was also the founder of the dynasty. The king Bala Chandra seemed to be identical with king Bala Chandra of Tharanath’s history. The Shitthaung Pillar inscription doesn’t specifically mention the territorial jurisdiction of the kings who reigned several hundred years earlier than the time of engravement of the inscription. Tharanath’s history states that king Bala Chandra was driven out from his ancestral kingdom. He established a new kingdom in Bengal II might be that one of his successors conquered Arakan and made it his administrative headquarter there.265
The possibility of a connection of whatsoever kind between the Chandra dynasty of Arakan and the Chandra dynasty of East Bengal belonging to the same period cannot be ruled out. The kings of both lines were Buddhist in faith…………..Monarchs of both of these lines used either Nagari (Sanskrit) or the script belonging to the eastern group in their coins and inscriptions. The designs of the coins issued by both of these lines have such a striking similarities that one may confuse the coins of one country with those of other. But there is no evidence yet to prove the two Royal families were related to each other. The inscription of Chandra of Eastern Bengal have no reference to Arakan and the inscriptions of Chandra of Arakan in their turn had a very faint reference to their counterpart of East Bengal. Modern scholars have so far endeavored to establish some sort of connection between the Chandras of Wethali and those of East Bengal.266
A Copper plate discovered in Nasir Abad Chittagong, in 1874 A.D. indicated the names of some rulers: it shows Porushutama Modhumattana Deva, Vasudeva andDamodara Deva as the rulers. These rulers were Visnuvite in their faith and claimedthemselves Chandra Vamsi or descendants from the moon.267
In these contexts, we find rulers in both Arakan and East Bengal were Chandra Vamsi. The public in both sides were the same. The present day Rakhines who are proved, in previous chapters, as Tibeto-Burman are difficult to put at the same par with the people of Chittagong today or with the people of Wethali period of Arakan. Bruwas and Rohingyas of Arakan today have greater possibility to have genealogical and cultural relationships with those people of Wethali age. Descendants of the Chandra in East Bengal are Bengali today.So descendants of the Chandras in Arakan should also logically be the same Bengalis. Bengali affiliated peoples in Arakan are of course Bruwas and Rohingyas today.
Although western historians proved Rakhine to be a branch of Tibeto-Burman, who entered from 10th century A.D., some Arakanese try to tiace their origin in the west rather than in the east. The Arakanese are in average a bit taller and appear stouter. R B. Smart says they appear to have gradually imbibed of the physical as well as the moral and social characteristics of the natives of India, with whom they have, for at least centuries, much intermixed. They are darker than the Talaing and perhaps rather darker than the Burmans and the type of countenance is as much Aryan as Mongolian.268
Arakan maritime communication is exposed to the west for many centuries. From the early Christian era to the modern time foreigners have had contacts with Arakan. Many of who got the chance to establish little colonies and settlements. There were instances where intermarriages took place with foreigners. Arakan kings had to prohibit taking out the off springs of these mix-marriages. But Thiri Thudamma (a) Salim Shah II 1652-1682 allowed the Dutch to take away their off springs of their mix marriages.269 The off springs of mix-marriages with Buruwas and Hindus usually became Buddhist and Rakhines. We cannot deny the fact too; many women captives brought from lower Bengal were made housewives and concubines, who might have produced children vvilh Indian complexion.
R. B. Smart further says the childien of mix-marriages between Hindus and Arakanese tend to become assimilated by the Arakanese in their first or second generation.
Some Arakanese try to trace their origin in Maggheda, India. But researchers say the dialect spoken in Chittagong originates from Maghadhi Parakrit or Maghadi Aphabhramasa.It is characterized by penetration of a large number of indigenous and foreign words. In early Christian era, after the time of king Ashok, Hindu revivalist suppressed the Buddhists and many had fled into the east. From this migrant people of Magheda, Chittagonians got ample vocabularies.According to Dr.S.B.Chatterjee, the dialect of Chittagong evolved from Magadhi Parakrit or Eastern Indian Parakrit, which was cunent in Magadha and its adjoining areas in ancient period.270 So the Rakhine people whose language is quite different with Chittagonian cannot be put at the same par Next Rakhine people who are said to enter Arakan only after 10th century A.D., cannot be ethnically linked with the Magadhi people who migrated to the east, including Arakan, in the early period of Christian era.
So Rakhine were formerly called Magh not because they are descendants of Maghadhi people, but indeed because of other reasons which are subject to further researches by scholars.
As we have seen in pievious chapter, political situation in Arakan after king Sanda Thudamma, began to deteriorate day by day, save a short period of Sanda Wiziya’s reign from 1710 to 1731 A.D. Looting arson and chaos spread all over the country People from Arakan proper discontented with the rule of a king from Ramree race. So, some of them invited Bodaw Pya of Ava to help them dethrone. Maha Thamada, the Ramree king.
Burmese forces under three Princes invaded Arakan frorn three sides Arakanese army near Kyauk Pru was defeated at the hand of Burmese naval force and the Burman advanced towards the capital and took possession of it, meeting with hardly any resistance. In some cases the crowds, village by village, came out to welcome the advancing army with dance and bands. The country was annexed and Maha Thamada Raja was taken prisoner to Ava, where he died shortly after.
Burmese divided Arakan into four administrative parts, each was governed by a governor. The divisions were Akyab, Ramree, Sandoway and Ann. Here Governor (Myo Wun) of Ramree was Sayagyi U Nu of Shwebo, a Mislim, perhaps a descendant of 3,700 Arakanese Muslims who fled to Ava in early 18th Century.
But not very later the very men who invited the Burman were leading insurgency against them. Chan Byan who is usually styled king Berring in the official account of this period, the son of the very man who invited Burman into Arakan, twice raised a revolt, and his standard was joined by most of the respectable Arakanese families; but the rising was finally suppressed and those who could do so escaped to Chittagong Hence Chan Byan continued intrigues till he died in 1815. During this time large numbers of the inhabitants escaped into Chittagong and other parts of lower Bengal.271
In D.G.E. Hall’s words, in 1798 there occurred a further abortive Arakanese rising and in consequence, another exodus of refugees. It was estimated that there was no less than 50,000 of them in the Chitlagnng district. So desperate was their plight that in 1799. Captain Hariman Cox was sent to superintend relief measures and died there while engaged upon his difficult task. Hence that place began to be known as Cox Bazaar.272
For each division of Arakan, Bodaw Pya appointed a Governor and Mayors for towns.This was a time when British and French were competing to penetrate into the market of Burma. Both want to monopolize Burma, which British felt impossible without military occupation. So British were watching for a chance to intervene in Burmese affairs In the meantime Arakanese insurgency at the border lead the two sides into dispute. Some frequent border skirmishes occurred. Burma demanded the expulsion of Arakanese but British denied it. There were diplomatic initiatives to defuse Ihe tension, but was not very fruitful
At the time of Bodaw Pya’s occupaiion, Arakan’s population was about three hundred thousands. Thousands of Muslims and Buddhists were herded away to Burma as captives Mahamuni Image, too, was carried away Burmese rule then was very cruel, heavy taxation,forced labor were enforced. So there were armed resistance, which invited further cruelties and consequently more people had to flee (into Bengdl).273
D.G.E.Hall says the problem of Chin Byan and Burmese incursion in pursuit of the rebels continued until Chin Byan died in 1815 A. D..274 Forced labor to work on Meiktila Lake and Mingon Pagoda and to serve against Chiengmai were called. Thus people deserted Arakan and it was overgrown with jungles, there were nothing left to be seen but utter desolation, morass, pestilence and death.275
The Burmese claimed the surrender of all fugitives. British denied on ground (that) all are not criminals; some are political refugees and simply harmless people fleeing from death. Although British took some actions against the rebels they could never catch NgaChin Byan, lord of Saing Daing, Akyab District, the leader of 1797 and many subsequent risings. For seventeen years he had led his people gallantly, but he never had a chance because he had relied on the other leaders for nothing save to fail him, out of jealousy at the critical moment.276
In the meantime, British noticed Burmese effort to get contact with Maharajas of India and French maneuvers to obtain closer relationship with Burma.
In the reign of Bagyi Daw 1819 – 1837, the grandson and successor of Bodaw Pya, there arose the problem of Manipur. Cachar and Assam, which was then under Burmese rule and British, had declared Cachar as its protected state. At the same time, in September 1823, a territorial dispute over Chamapuri (Shahpuri) island at the mouth of Naf River arose.Thus hostilities on both Cachar and Arakan front let to open war. British declare war on 5th March 1824. Burma confronted with an army of 60.000 men, headed by Maha Bandoola.277 It is said Maha Bandoola recruited many combat experienced men from Arakan, most of whom were Muslims. It is learned and passed mouth to mouth up to us by our older generations that Yusuf Ali son of Roshan Ali, was one of the recruits.
Shwe Dah Khazi (a) Abdul Karim Qazi of Minbya resisted the British, too, where he became prisoner of the British army and was put in Calcutta jail.278
On 11th May the British entered Rangoon form the sea with 11,500 men mostly Madras sepoys. Bandoola retreated from his Panwa campaign, transferred his forces to Rangoon. It was rainy season; British could not advance much for months. But in the battle of Danubyu, Bandoola was killed by a British shell, and his hosts fled on the spot. The British occupied Prome in April 1825 and Pagan in February 1826. By the treaty signed on 24 February 1826 at Yandobo, a village in Myingyan, the Burmese ceded Arakan and Tenasserim and paid an indemnity of Rs. 10.000.000.279
During the reign of Bodaw Pya Muslims were allowed to settle their social and religious disputes in accordance with their religious veidict. There was a king’s decree in this regard, which was known as “Bodaw Pya Pyandann”. Under this decree many religious judges in the name of Qazi were officially appointed. One of the famous Qazi was Abdul Karim of Minbya, who was honored with a Gold Sword by the king. Thence he was called Shwe Dah Qazi and still there is a Mosque built in Minbya in the name of Shwe Dah Qazi. He was also offered gold betel box, which still is in the possession of his great grand daughter, daughter of Thakin Zainuddin, Principal of National High School, Akyab. Throughout Arakan there were many Qazis who exercised their role even during the British period. The Government appointed them and provided them with seals of their office. These seals are still found in Arakan. The recently Famous Qazis were Qazi Obeidul Haq of Sein Oo Chamg, Kyauktaw and Qazi Maqbool Ahmed of Sein Oo Byin, Buthidaung.
The reason for the conquest of Arakan was mostly attributed to Bodaw Pya’s vast plans of ambition to conquest another crown. The same strive prompled him to extend its empire westwards, as he planned to possess himself of the British India and even attacked the great Mogul [I cannot say how far it is true because it is the assessment of the western riters]. It is true that he first refused the request of Arakan King’s son to assist him against he authors of rebellion. Yet new trouble and dissentions had then arisen in the Mrauk-U, hich prompted king Bodaw Pya to take this opportunity to invade its antagonist, i.e the akhine kingdom.280
Another version equally reported by some Rakhine prisoners brought as slaves into urmese empire, was that Mrauk-U inhabitants were grossly deceived by the Burmese: for hey said that upon the approach of the army, heralds were sent forth to ask the cause of their coning where unto answer was made that they came to worship and honor with due solemnity to the great idol (Mahamuni) venerated in their city.281
I am not going to discuss in detail the military aspect of the Anglo-Burmese war, British maritime and land attacks overwhelmed the Burmese. Burmese retreated across the mountain into Pegu. Arakan was captured. There was an Arakanese force along with the British in the Arakanese front. Bandoola again began to resist British advance from Rangoon. There were fierce battles for months. Bandoola was killed by a shell of British at Danupyu British advanced up to Pagan in February 1826. British advance was ended at Yandabo, a village in Myingyan on 24th February of 1826 with a treaty, by which Arakan and Tenassserim became British territory.
Shortly afterwards, when the main body of British troop was withdrawn, one regiment was left in Arakan and a local battalion was raised, partly to keep law and order and partly to repel the incursion of wild tribes occupying the hills For several years the country was more or less in disturbed state and within two years establishment of a native dynasty was plotted for. The leaders were three men: Aung Kyaw Ri, a brother-in-law of Chin Byan, Aung Kyaw San, his nephew; both of whom had rendered assistance to the British army and received appointment under British Government, the other is Shwe Pan, also a British official. In 1827 attempts were made to tamper with the men of local battalion. But British controlled it and action was taken. In 1836, another rebellion broke out but was suppressed. From time to time until early 20th century a number of insurrections broke out, all of which were branded as dacoity and suppressed all.
Arakan was ruled by the Governor of British India. At first Chiltagong commissioner controlled it, and then a separate commissioner was appointed
According to the report of first British commissioner, the population of Arakan in 1826 was about one hundred thousand. It was almost a depopulated area. But following the British occupation, people soon flocked in, mainly those who escaped before and during the war.The country became more settled and immigration increased. People seemed joyful to come back to their home.
More or less rule of law prevailed. British administration took firm root. General census was taken every ten years. Agriculture was extended. Economic growth took momentum. Workers from Chittagong began to flock into Arakan. Thus the census returns showed an increase. Ethnic races save Hindus and Muslims were recorded on ethnic basis in census. Hindus and Muslims were altogether shown under the column of religion. There was no question of national and non-national because all are under British rule. Here the increase in Muslim population is mainly due to the inclusion of seasonal laborers who used to come from Chittagong area. But in late colonial period the nationality question rose in political atmosphere. So Arakanese Muslims, becoming aware of their nationality protested to the Government to record them separately as Burmese nationals. British Government failed to separate natives and seasonal workers in census. But from 1921, only some Burmese speaking Muslims were shown as Arakanese Mohammedans or Kamans. Non-Rakhine speaking natives still remained in the census as Muslims along with the alien workers. The British deliberately or unknowingly, made a mistake not to separate the non-Rakhine speaking Muslims of Arakan who had been living in the country for many centuries. In the words of British researcher Gil Christ and Francois Burchanan, they are deeply rooted community and their language was dominant in Arakan even before British occupation.282
In some cases British census are not accurate and reliable. About the reliability of British census, a British officer was quoted by Martin Smith as follows:-
British censuses are found to be very unreliable. While the basic Ethno-Linguistic Categories still in use today are British in origin, many of the British methods of survey proved unsatisfactory in Burma.In various Government censuses and reports there were constant shifts in criteria for what was deemed an ethnic group. As one of the frustrated British officers noted in an appendix to the 1931 census, some of the races and tribes in Burma changed their race almost as often as they changed their clothes. Simply asking the question mother tongue as opposed to language ordinarily used in the home produce, a dramatic 61% increase in the population of Mon in Burman between the census of 1921 and 1931.283
The increase of census return in Arakan was due to seasonal workers who are also included in the census, disregard of the place of their native. But in the same census reports, we find that these workers mostly from Chittagong District were not settlers but they returned once the season of works is over. R. B. Smart says the first lot that comes, arrive in time for ploughing season and with the exception of a few who obtained further employments, returned to their home. The next lot and by far the Iarger number arrive in time for reaping transport and handling of the paddy at the mills and at the port of Akyab…….. After the reaping the laborers execute such earthwork as has to be done, some proceed to the mills or find employment on boats while others return home. By the middle of May the season in Akyab is over and thereafter only a few stragglers rernain.284
So it is crystal clear, that the inclusion of seasonal laborers in the census should not be a reason to deny Rohingya, their bon-a-fide ancestry and nationality in Arakan. To have more light in this regard there are assessments of western researchers. Richard Adiof and Virginia Thompson, in their minority problems in South-East Asia, categorically described the Chittagonian workers in Arakan to be different from immigrants who used to come into Burma from India. They say the Indians, who came to Burma, are businessmen, office workers and coolies and they, more or less settled permanently in Burma, unlike the Chittagonians in Arakan who return back after the working season.285 In census male population is greater than female because all the workers are male.
Further, there were foreigners act of 1864 cind the registration of foreigners act of 1940. Burmese immigration acts are very harsh from the beginning: so no foreigners dare stay permanently without registration. Thus, in Arakan too, there were thousands of registered foreigners, most of who returned during the 1942 communal riots and the others after the advent of U Ne Win’s military Government, which had confiscated all businesses of foreigners. In Arakan, there are still some foreigners though few in number, most of who are aged now.
An Arakanese politician of high reputation, Bonpauk Tha Kyaw, in his book distributed among all political parties in 1990, described the population of Arakan at the time of British occupation to be only about 100.000. According to him this consists of 60.000 Rakhines, 30,000 Muslims and 10,000 Burmans. This ratio indicates one Muslim for every two Rakhines. These Muslims of pre British periods according to all constitutions and citizenship laws of Burma are Burma’s genuine citizens. That was why from the time of Bogyoke Aung San’s Government up to the advent of SLORC Government. Rohingyas were never subjected to get registered as foreigners. There are hundreds and thousands of Rohingya villages in Arakan; all Rohingyas had been registered since 1951-1952, under Myanmar population registration act of 1949 and Myanmar population registration rule of 1951. Article 33 of said rule prohibited foreigners to be registered under these acts and rules. Under these acts and rules all Rohingyas got their National Registration Cards in contrast to foreigners who have to take Foreigner’s Registration Cards under the clauses of foreigner registration rule.
Today Rohingyas are not issued Nationality Scrutiny Cards under new citizenship law of 1982. But section 6 of that new citizenship law reads those who already became citizens before the enforcement of this law in 1982, are citizens too. Hence Rohingyas are deserved to obtain the Nationality Scrutiny Cards as they have been enjoying full citizenship since Burmese independence.
In British time social and economic life in Arakan developed up to some extent Government schools were opened in every Town.But what the British encouraged is Urdu schools for Muslims. This separation of education made Rohingyas handicapped from social integration with their sisterly people Rakhine and led them to be barred from government employment after independence. There was a section of educated Rohingya, including Thakin Zainuddin, the Principal of National High School, Akyab, who opposed the Urdu school system. But they were not successful.
1942 Communal Riot
It is a tragic event. It has racial and political aspects. Many people have its detailed records Karballah-l-Arakan, in Urdu written by Advocate Khalilur Rehman of Akyab and the diary of Thakin Zainuddin, Principal of National High School, Akyab, are self-experienced and eye witnessed records. But these copies are not in my hand today. Some writers are found to be bias. Some try to exaggerate: only the accesses of other party while concealing their own misconducts. I would try to be fair and neutral. I cannot go into detail as it may effect some quarter and perhaps it would mean airing old hatred. So here most of the narration will be the extraction from the writing of Bonpauk Tha Kyaw,an Arakanese and Moshe Yegar, an Israeli;A few short paragraphs will be from some British officers and U Thein Pe Mymt’s writings.Some paragraphs are condensed by extracting from various pages of Bonpauk Tha Kyaw’s“On the Route to the Revolution (Tawlanrey Khariwai).”
Bonpauk says there was all Arakan National Unity Organization. It was headed by Sayadaw U Sein Da, U Tha Zan HIa. U Aung Zan Wai, U Kyaw Oo and many others. Basically it is a Rakhine patriotic but moderate organization. In early 1941, at the Kyauktaw conference they decided to take side with Japan because Japan was coming in collaboration with BIA.286 Thakin Soe attended the conference as a representative of GCBA headquarter, Rangoon.
When in late 1941, BIA entered Burma and Japan bombed some towns in lower Burma, British forces had withdrawn; law and order deteriorated. So Indians in Burma side began to flee westwards in flocks. Many of them look the route of Taung Gup pass to fetch steamer in Akyab, where steamers go to Calcutta weekly. Many ran away from Maungdaw, Buthidanug route to Chittagong. Foreigners in Arakan, too, fled along with them.
Arakanese on the whole are more advance than other minorities in Arakan and they had a very close link with the Burmese Leadership of that time. They were fully cooperating with Burmese politicians.
Bonpauk writes; at that time there were Rajput and Karen forces in Akyab while main forces of British regular army were withdrawn to Maungdaw north.The administration of Arakan was trusted with one U Kyaw Khaing an I.C.S.(Lawyer). He was empowered with martial law authority. He now is a Major. But there happened to be a vacuum of systematic Government. Rule and order deteriorated in Arakan. There were police stations in the towns with a few police personnel. Unscrupulous gangs took law in their own hands. Chaos and terror spread all over Arakan save Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where still the influence of British army remains, Bonpauk says Japan first bombed Akyab on 23rd March 1942. The Karen force left behind by the British was highly disheartened. They wanted to return to Rangoon. As Japan was bombing Akyab, the Karen force ran in disarray. This time I (Bonpauk) made friendship with some Karen constables. During heavy bombardment, I entered Plauk-Taung military and police cantonment where no inmates at all and I found a lot of new rifle bullets. For further collection of weapons and bullets from the Karen force, I made secret arrangement with Ko Maung Sein Tun and U Pinnya Thiha (Sayadaw). I became very friendly with a jail warder too. And through him I got contact with Naghani U Tun Shwe and ex-minister U Ba Oo, who were in jail 287then.
Bonpauk further says, once there was a heavy bombing. I got some weapons and ammunition (from Plauk Taung Cantonment) and I put them in Ko Maung Sein Tun’s house at south Shwe Bya. Later I transferred them for so many tunes to Laung Che Chanug (perhaps in Min Bya) along with the Karens, with four oared wooden boat. At that time there was military rule (of U Kyaw Khaing) at Akyab. Dwellers in the downtown ran away to the countryside. Akyab was a deserted city.288
In many towns in Arakan, civil administration had collapsed. Sayadaw U Gandama, in Mrohong:U Thein Kyaw Aung, U Kyaw Ya, U Pan Tha Aung, in Min Bya, and U Tun HIa Aung in Pauk Taw established their own military administrations. British administration remained in Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw only. In the meantime Muslim and Rakhine riot had started from Rakchaung village in Myebon Township and Pann Mraungyi Chaung village in Min Bya.289 In Min Bya we (Bonpauk and his comrades) did not find U Pinnya Thiha. So I did gathered some 400 youths and explained them not to make communal strife, which will only serve the British, who want to divide us.
[From other sources it is learned it was early April of 1942 and was a very serious period. Arson, looting, burning and killing were on their height. Pan Mraung Gyi bazaar in Minbya Township, where almost all shopkeepers were Muslims, was burnt down.]
But the rioting gangs have their own militants. I was not successful to persuade them. The gang leader U Shwe Ya arrested me and put in the police station of Minbya. [This means though there were police constables, they had no authority.] However, we were later released by the intercession of Thauk Kya Aung, a schoolteacher, who had some influence in those areas.
At that time civil administration was totally finished. U Kyaw Khaing, empowered with martial law was wandering throughout the district with his Rajput and Gurkha force. He shot down any suspected man on his way. He came to Minbya. He redeemed the money taken away by Thakin force from the treasury from the town’s elders. As I was in police custody we saw the Major (U Kyaw Khaing) in front of the station at 9:00 PM. We were so much frightened. But the Myo Paing (T. 0) U Maung Tha Pru was clever enough and courageous enough to persuade the Major to go out of the station. He, the Major, was a cruel man, drunk all the time. He returned with his M.G.B boat at the same night. This is the time when BIA army camped in Ponna Gyun.
At the mean time communal riot in Kyauktaw was on its height. U Thauk Kya Aung, the headmaster, help arranged a meeting with Thien Kyaw Aung, the ringleader of the not activities. Our meeting in Minbya with these militant leaders, U Thein Kyaw Aung, U Kyaw Ya and many others were not very successful but hundreds of their followers had accepted our opinions, not to fight amongst ourselves. The ringleaders were boasting to have killed 200 (two hundred), 300 (three hundred) Kalahs personally. However, after two, three days’ crucial negotiations, the militant leader agreed to undergo a training course for their followers.290
So we (Bonpauk and colleagues) arranged some military training for the militants, so as to use in the Anti-British campaign. Meanwhile BIA headed by Bo Rang Aung arrived at Minbya. U Thein Kyaw Aung and his followers amalgamated with us, including the army of Bo Rang Aung. Ko Mya was designated for Arakan administration. We marched to Ponnagyun and camped at Kyauk Seik. The Japanese force arrived too, where some skirmishes with the remnants of British patrolling along with steamer were heard
[Since Bonpauk was collaborating with riot ring leaders such as U Them Kyaw Aung and U Kyaw Ya, Muslims suspected him to have his hands behind the riot activities. In the same way as police force in the towns were inactive or do nothing to control the rioting, their boss U Kyaw Khaing is assumed to have encouraged the rioters. It was a real consensus amongst the Muslims then]
U Kyaw Khaing, the martial law administrator of Arakan seized all licensed guns from Muslims. During this time he went by his M.G.B steamer to Buthidaung, perhaps to give guidelines to the police force there and put some money in the treasury of Buthidaung, which seemed more secure place for theGovrinment money.
This period was very unstable. Law and order was in the hands of unscrupulous rioting leaders. It was a time when the Law of jungle ruled. Thousands and thousands of refugees from inner Arakan reached Butnidaung area. Minority Rakhines in Maungdaw and Buthidaung became targets of their retaliation.
On his (the D C’s) return jouiney, his steamer was ambushed by the Muslim refugees (who escaped from inner Arakan) near Guda Prang, a village in the south of Buthidaung. U Kyaw Khaing (the D.C) was injuied and later died on the steamer. It proceeded to Akyab. To the agony of fate, when the M. G B steamer reached near Ponna Gyun it was fired by BIA. So his steamer turned back where Dr. Aung Tha HIa jumped down into the river and died with bullet injuries.
From Kyauk Seik, BIA continued its march to Akyab through Amyint Gyun, Kyak Khaing Dan and Thekkebyin. There, BIA could seize Plauk Taung cantonment and Akyab imperial bank. All British remnants fled away. In Akyab along with Bo Rang Aung’s BIA force, we tried to defuse the riot and held discussions with Muslim leaders. First we met with advocate U Yasin and he promised full co-operation in regard of relaxing the riot. But the riot situation in Buthidaung and Maungdaw area was serious.291 [Rakhine Minority on the west side of May Yu river was terrorized and in some places there were mass killings by Muslims especially by those who came from inner Arakan and villages in the east of May Yu River were deserted, most of which were burnt down by Rakhine armed gangs of looters. Mass killing of Muslims occurred in Apauk-Wa mountain pass, Lan Gwein village, Rathedaung and Sein Thay Byin, Buthidaung.]
This time Bo Rang Aung arranged Arakan and Akab district administration at a meeting in the primary school in Rupa Quarter, Akyab. U Tha Za HIa, U Aung Tun Oo, U San Tun Aung and U Pho Mya Sein were the members of District Administration. Arakan State administration was trusted to Ko Mya. Township administrations in other towns were also formed. At the meantime U Thein Kyaw Aung assured us that they would not attack any native Muslims. Japan force (though late for some weeks) too, arrived at Akyab.292
Here U Pinnya Thiha (Sayadaw) brought news that thousands of Rakhines at Buthidaung were at the point of death, and were rounded up by refugees and local Kalahs (Muslims), and that it was our duty to rescue them. So Bo Rang Aung, his assistant U Mya, U Pinnya Thiha, the leaders of Arakan National Unity Organization and myself (Bonpauk) secretly arranged some arms and ammunitions to send to Buthidaung for the helpless Rakhines. We loaded these weapons on a steamer (of Arakan Flotilla Company) at Sekroo Kya Jetty at night. Ko Nyo Tun was on the steamer. But before the daybreak, Japan force arrived and seized all arms and ammunitions and Ko Nyo Tun was saved only by repeated intercession of Bo Rang Aung.293 [This sort of transporting of weapons, secretly, and many other activities such as co-operation with those militant rioters, led the Muslims of Arakan, to suspect Bonpauk and his associates to be biased and to be Godfather of the 1942 communal riots.]
We learned from U Kyaw Khaing (D. C) that money from all treasuries of Arakan State was transferred into the treasury of Buthidaung. After his death British administration in Buthidaung and Maungdaw too, were paralyzed. Hundreds of Rakhine in Buthidaung Township were killed by refugees and local Muslims. But situation in Maungdaw was a bit better. Rakhines there got the help of some (British) officials, and some had resisted the attack of Muslims and most of them were able to ciuss into the British area in India.294 [These refugees were camped at Dainaspur, India).
We further learned that British occasionally used to come into Maungdaw town, in its military excursions. Yet we decided to go there and try to make peace.
So a BIA unit headed by Bo Rang Aung himself proceeded to Buthidaung. In this mission, Ko Myint, Ko Tha Tun Oo (BCP Rakhine State EC), U Pinnya Thiha, U Pho Khaing. Advocate U Yasin and myself (Bonpauk) were accompanied. [Here Bo Rang Aung took two persons, native of Buthidaung, to help guide them the way. One was Haji Mohammed Sultan of Sein Nyint Bya and the other was U Ba Khin (a) Ashab Uddin of Rwat Nyo Daung] The steamer of Bo Rang Aung reached Buthidaung without any resistances or disturbances. We (Bonpauk and party) got the money in Buthidaung treasury. Some coins scattered on the floor of treasury were distributed among the Daingnet Refugees. Arms from the police were also seized.
On the other side, it is said so called Arakan militant groups had made arrangement not to attack the bon-a-fide Muslim villages in inner Arakan. [In these connections Muslim sources said there was an signed agreement between so called Rakhine National Unity Organization headed by U Tha Zan HIa on Rakhine side and U Zainuddin, Headmaster of National High School, Akyab, Headmaster U Syed Ahmed and U Azim Uddin (Dwashi) on the Muslim side]. But later this treaty of bond, not to attack each other, was broken. [Aliens or nationals, all Muslims indiscriminately became target of attacks. Kywe Oo Chaing and Apauk- Wa Rohingya villages were burnt-down. These villagers suffered much in men and materials.A great many refugees, from Myebon, Minbya and Mrohong gathered at Khaung Dauk – Alegyun village. They had an arrangement to resist any aggression. They fenced the village with big logs of wood. They had some firearms too. A big encounter or reciprocal fighting broke out there. Some days passed and Muslims could not withstand the attacks with rifle and had to runaway in disarray. Thousands were killed there. No one got proper burial. Those trying to cross the Kaladan River near Radanabon (Naariyong) village, too, were chased and most were killed at the bank and across the nver].
Again to go back to Bo Rang Aung s mission, Bonpauk Tha Kyaw says he (Bo Rang Aung) was not happy with Thein Kyaw Aung and other militant groups. Thein Kyaw Aung was about to get death sentence, but I succeeded in saving U Thein Kyaw Aung.At Buthidaung he tried to maintain law and order. He discussed the ways to defuse communal tension. He proceeded to Maungdaw next flay Despite my warning, he went and held a big mass meeting on the football ground of Maungdaw high school. But it was disturbed by some Kalah (Muslim) refugees. Firing broke out and the meeting was collapsed. A BIA officer and two Rakhine constables were killed. Bo Rang Aung and party had to rush back to Bulhidaung. 295 [Muslim sources say in fact it was an act of British remnants. There were British forces in Maungdaw area; where as Boli Bazaar was British Headquarter then. There were reciprocal firings. As a result some persons on both sides were killed, including a son of Mulvi Abdur Rahman, who was also a member of Bo Rang Aung’s mission. In this connection Bo Rang Aung took some retaliatory actions in Buthidaung. Some elderly Muslims from nearby villages of Buthidaung were killed at night on the football ground of Buthidaung. Further, U Ba Khin, Haji Mohammed Sultan and one Thnevi Marakame, an influential Muslim landowner of Akyab, who took refuge in Buthidaung, were detained and took away to Akyab, the station of BIA].
There, in Buthidaung situation was tense and contused Bo Rang Aung decided to return back to Akyab. He was retreating to Akyab next morning. He and his party got onboard a steamer. The Rakhines in the town became veiy desperate. They were highly frightened. [They heard a rumor that Bo Rang Aung is leaving next morning. So they made complete preparation to go along with Bo Rang Aung by steamer.] In the morning crowds of Rakhine rushed into the jetty and were trying to get on onboard the steamer of Bo Rang Aung. So we (Bonpauk and party) had to depart the steamer from this jetty. The crowds streamed upon another steamer. Being heavily loaded tins steamer, some hundred yards off the jetty, capsized and drowned. Almost all the passengers estimated about three hundred, along with their belongings drowned in the river, and most were died. [Some sources say the steamer was shot by the Chinese community in Bulhidaung who were not allowed to board on]
Bo Rang Aung arrived at Akyab camped at the house of rice mill owner U Kyaw Zan. 296 [There Thanevi Marakan, Haji Mohammed Sultan and U Ba Khin were also kept in confinement. Later, after some days these three persons were released the intervention of Japanese, perhaps to whom Mr Sultan Mahmood (Ex-Health Minister) approached for their salvation].
Bo Rang Aung got order from Ranyoun Headquarter to retreat back to Rangoon. So we got back to Minbya, then the Arakan headquarter of BIA.
In Minbya, Thakin Soe, Thakin Thein Pe Myint, thakin Tin Mya and U Tin Shwe arrived. U Thein Pe Myints program was to go to India to get contact for anti-fascist operation. But most Arakanese leaders did not accept the idea to fight Japan, whom very recently they welcomed with flowers, band and music. Thus Bo Rang Aung and party, instead of staging any guerrilla operation against the Japanese, quietly returned to Rangoon.
Sayadaw U Sein Dan of Kyauk Nwa Village, Myebon, was a patriot. He fought personally against the British. But when Bo Rang Aung letreated to Rangoon, U Sein Dah was arrested and kept in Kalama Taung by Japanese. The reason behind this arrest, according to Japanese was, the riot (and burning down) of Rak Chaung Muslim village of Myebon was the work of U Sein Dah and the bandit leader Maung Tha Oo acted only on his direction. But later, by the effort of U Pinnya Thiha and some others he was released.297
[The Muslim version of 1942 riot is a bid different. They feel it was not an accidental event. It was an organized campaign aimed at making Alakan exclusively a Rakhine State.They say this sort of massacre and burning down of villages, at the same time in every town of Akyab District could not accidentally occur.]
About this communal riot, Moshe Yegar, an Israeli, writer observes: during the period of British rule, disaffection between the Buddhist population and the Muslims, in Arakan, developed for the same economic and social reasons that caused similar hatred between the two groups as in the rest of Burma. The accumulated tension reached an explosive point at the time of British withdrawal before the advancing of Japanese forces. Gangs of Arakanese Buddhists in Southern Arakan, where the Buddhists are in majority, attacked Muslim villages and massacred their inhabitants. Whole villages were sacked and their inhabitants were murdered. Some Arakanese nobles attempted to pievent the wholesale massacres, but without success. Muslim refugees streamed to Northern Arakan where the majority was Muslims and some 22,000 even crossed the border and fled to India [The figure in fact was about 100,000, and they were camped by British at Rangpur refugee camp.] The refugees (from inner Arakan) reaching Maungdaw incensed the local Muslim majority with their stories (of horror) and the latter began to mete out similar punishment upon the Buddhist minority in their midst. The act of mutual murder soon caused the Buddhist population in Northern Arakan to flee, even as the Muslims had fled from the south. It was in this manner Arakan became divided into two separate areas, one Buddhist and the other Muslim.
The Japanese invaded Arakan in the mid of 1942; they occupied Akyab on 7th May and controlled the whole region of Buthidaung and a half the region of Maungdaw in late 1942. [Northern side of Maungdaw was still under British control, making Boli Bazaar their military headquarter]. With the help of local Muslim leaders they (the Japanese) established two peace committees, one in Buthidaung and the second in Maungdaw. These committees were primarily engaged in enquires in public affairs, since the court had ceased to operate when the British left. [The chairman of the Peace Committee of Maungdaw was Headmaster of Maungdaw High School, Mr. Omrah Meah and of Buthidaung was Mr. Zahiruddin]. The Japanese ruled in this area until the beginning of 1945. Most of the Muslims were pro British and many of them joined the services of reconnaissance and espionage on the other side of the border or in underground activities [Yet there are Muslims, especially educated ones, who at the first hand help the Japanese and got capital punishment at the hand of British, e.g. Mr. Kala Meah of Kwindaing Village. Bulhidaiing]
In order to strengthen their stnuding in the region and to encourage Muslim loyalty, British had published a declaration granting them a status of National Area. This entire area was re-conquered by the British at the beginning of 1945 [During British re-entry into Northern Arakan, there occurred fierce battles, ground as well as air, at Ngakhaung Du, Maungdaw and Ngakindauk, Senswpra and Gupi in Buthidaung. After near about six months of battles the Japanese had retreated]
The British, too, had set up peace committees and organized civil administration, which functioned until Burma was granted independence in January 1948. In this administration most of the office holders were local Muslims. [For example, U Farooq Ahmed, U Lukhman Hakim. U Abul Bashar from Boli Bazaar Area and U Abdul Gaffar and U Abul Bashar from Buthidaung were Township Officers of that time].
After the end of the war and during the following years the region’s Muslim population increased greatly. Thanks to the immigration of Chittagong who arranged for the return of refugees in the wake of British re-entry as well as to the return of thousands of Arakanese Muslims refugees who had (in 1942) fled fiom the south of Arakan and who returned to the north after the war.298
This refugee repatriation was undertaken by successive Burmese Governments until Pa-Sa-Pha-La period of U Nu. Red Returnee Cards issued in the time of Bokyoke Aung San are still in the hands of some refugees of that time.
Thanks to the Government and people of Japan, whose timely arrival in Arakan had saved thousands of lives and millions of loss of materials. Japanese arrival defused the tension and ceased the riots.
A British army officer who worked in Arakan front writes in his book that Arakan before the war had been occupied over its entire length by both Muslims and Maghs (Rakhines). Then in 1941 the two sects set to and fought. The result of this war was roughly that the Maghs took over the southern half of the country and the Mulsims the north half.299 He futher says Muslims who had fled from the suuth in 1942 preterred returning to the north of Arakan and settling down there.300 [In inner Arakan, nearly 100,000 Rohingyas lost their lives, being the victims of above said communal riot]
According to U Thein Pe Myint, a Burmese politician, there was a competition between BIA and Japanese in occupying Arakan first. Each tried to seize town ahead of the other. Two BIA battalions, one headed by Bo Rang Aung and another by Bo Min Khaung marched to Arakan in the absence of advanced transport facility. But they were able to reach up to Akyab ahead of Japanese. When Japanese approached to Arakan, Bo Min Khaung retreated to Rangoon.301 U Thein Pe Myint further writes; at Sandoway we discussed the program of our anti fascist people’s war with our comrades. It is reasonable, people from Akyab do not recognize the people of Sandoway and Gwa as Rakhine but as Burmans because their dialect is not different from Burmans and they do not wear bright red and dark green clothes as the Rakhines. We were provided enough rations for our motorboat journey from Sandoway to Akyab, by comrade Ko Kyaw Yin and otheis. On the journey the cooking of Chittagonian boatmen was very delicious.
This time there was Japan force in Akyab. Bo Rang Aung made his headquarter at Minbya, so we decided to proceed to Minbya wher we can obtain help from Bo Rang Aung to cross the bolder (to India)
In Minbya we were kept under the care of Bo Min Lwin. Bo Rang Aung went to Akyab to discuss his retreat to Rangoon with Japanese. But we found Ko Tha Kyaw (now Bonpauk Tha Kyaw), who was suffering from diarrhea, there. In Bo Rang Aung’s headquarter Thakin Soe, Thakin Tin Mya, Thakin Tin Shwe and myself discussed anti-fascist tactics. Next day Thakin Soe and Thakin Tin Mya returned. We were handed over for our journey to the border to Ko Nyo Tun (Ex-Minister) and his brother Ko Tun Win. On 12th July 1942, we proceeded for our journey. It was time of communal riot between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslims. Muslims were helped by Kalah (Indian) British force. So to use in case of need we took some gaskets and rifles from Bo Rang Aung and put them in our boat. Bo Rang Aung, U Pinnya Thiha and Ko Nyo Tun tried to relax communal not and it decreased up to some extent. Yet, as precautionary, step we took some Casket rifles from Bo Rang Aung.302 Next day we reached Kyauktaw and from there we proceeded to Paletwa.
In late 1941, there was British rule, only in Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw. There was Rajput English force, too. Some say Rajput army men helped the Muslims and the Muslims started the riot with the guns they got from Rajput army. But to judge from practical point of view the riot was not started from Muslim majority area of Akyab, Buthidaung and Maungdaw. It actually started from Myebon and Minbya where Rakhines were in majority.
More lhan 100 (one Hundred) Muslim villages in inner Arakan, uprooted during this communal riot and Muslims there were unable to resettle in their original places. These people mostly resettled in the Northern part of the State. This uprooted population would be more than two hundred thousand. So, Northern Arakan today becomes a more thickly populated area.
In the same way, most of the Rakhine, in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, who fled during the riot, took their settlement in inner Arakan. Later many Rakhine people, who do not want to return, sold down their lands to the Muslims.
During this short period of 1941 – 1948, there were several administration in succession. After British, there came the rule of militant riot mongers; then came the rule of BIA, which was again replaced by Japanese administration. In 1945, British entered again, and established a new administration.
One British army commander says, we were to cross Apauk-Wa pass, east of Rathedaung, on our re-entry into Arakan, but the pass was blocked with human skeletons.303
British reentered to Arakan. Muslims in the Northern Arakan had helped them. They recruited a battalion, from amongst the local people, in the name of Victory Force. In appreciation of these V. Force, a British army Officer remarked, “They are hardy and diligent people……… were they to got together, were they to be regimented, and trained, I would go so far as to say that I would soon take a battalion of them into the fighting line as any other native battalion that I have seen or fought with ……..they are living in a hostile country and had been hundreds of years there, and yet they survive. They are perhaps to be compared with the Jews…….a nation within a nation. Without these people we would have been blind and deaf. With them we have eyes and ears and continual entertainment. They make wonderful materials for fair-minded and far seeing colonizer…………Their future is in our hand. We have a chance of making a happy people and a fair state out of the Arakan. Any fairness, any kindness will be repaid us one hundred told. I would very often wonder whether the fairness and help that they have shown us will be repaid as fully as it would have been, had the boot been on the other foot.” 304
From late 1942, the British tried many times to reoccupy Arakan or some part of it or to repel the Japanese from there. The whole year, 1944, saw actions between the two armies in the northern Arakan; so fierce and rare, found nowhere in the annuals of military history. British and Japanese forces fought hand in hand in many places. Though British forces are man to man, no match to the Japanese, with British military superiority and with the help enjoyed from the anti fascist force of Burma, British army was able to reoccupy Kyauk Pyu and Sandoway in late 1944. On August 6th and 9th 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed; Japanese forces had to withdrew.
Due to this rioting and years long war on their land the people of this area, especially the majority Muslims had to suffer a lot in every sphere of their lives.
Note: [In this chapter the passages in parenthesis are my own research findings from other
sources, especially from the Muslims]
Muslim Role in the Freedom Movement:
Here, by Muslim, I mean Kaman, Myedu and Rohingya. There are two categories of Muslims in Arakan. One speaking Rakhine dialect and the other speaking Rohingya dialect. But both have close ethnic and cultural affinity. We see the same phenomenon amongst the Karen and Mon of Burma proper. Many Karen and Mon people do not know how to speak in their respective ethnic languages Anyhow. Muslims being minority, their role in connection with their freedom movement was not as great as the one of Rakhine and Burman. Further the role they played was not recorded or belittled in the post independence political literatures. There were many Muslim individuals who took leading role in the struggle. U Ba Shin of Sandoway was one of the eleven student leaders who decided to stage the first student strike of 1920. U Tun Sein, also from Snndoway, was first University Student Union Chairman. Thakin Zainuddin of Kyauktaw was the first Principle of Akyab National High School. U Pho Khaing of Akyab was an active member of “Do Bama Asie Ayone” His daughter Daw Aye Nyunt too took active part in Thakin movement and it was said she had a special relationship with Bo Rang Aung, commander of BIA in Arakan front. Advocate Yasin, Molvi Abdur Rehman, Tanevi Marakan, Gain Maiakan were also active leaders in Arakan, who were engaged in freedom movement activities in Arakan. Gain Marakan and Sultan Mahmood were E. C. members of all Arakan National Unity Organization.
When Ba-Ma-Ka (Burma Muslim Congress) took active part in Pa-Sa-Pha-La, its branch in Arakan, took part in Arakan branch of Pha-Sa-Pa-La, too.
Muslims groups in many towns resisted British occupation at the very beginning in 1825. So in the war report of first Anglo-Burma war, we found Qazi Abdul Karim of Minbya was arrested and kept in Calcutta jail. Elderly people still say, Bandoola had recruited many Muslims, rank and file, from Arakan.
There were many whom British had……….. given capital punishment for helping the Japanese force when first entered Bulhidaung. The death sentence of Ustad Kala Mean, of Kywin Daing, Buthidaung was a famous case. He was shot to death in Boli Bazaar, the headquarter of British army then. Farooq Raja of Sein Daing, Buthidaung was honored with a revolver by the Japanese for his service in maintaining law and order in that area after British withdrawal. Muslims of Northern Arakan firstly afraid of the Japanese, but after some months, they became familiar and friendly with Japanese.
U Thein Maung of Myebon and another U Thein Maung of Kyauk Pru were also active and senior participants in Thakin movements. There are many Rohingyas who got the prize of “Naing Ngan Gonyi” and “Lutlat Yei Mokun”: U Kadir of Minbya is still alive.
Further there are a lot many unrecorded individuals who worked with local nationalist.
It is locally said the famous Mujahid leader Bo Qassim was once the assistant of Bo Kra HIa Aung, Chairman of so called (Underground) Arakan National Unity and Independence Party.
British Re-Entered into Arakan
British had its forward outpost at the other side of the Naf River They re-entered into Arakan in late 1944. They organized an army in the name of Victory Force (V-Force), with recruits from local Muslims of Arakan. Marshal Slim says, though they were initially untrained, later along with the whole front, the V-Force became important and valuable part of intelligence framework for the Blitish.305
British made a declaration, whereby: the status of a Muslim area was promised. They set up an interim administration. The peace committees of Japanese time, with Muslim leaders as their heads, were preserved. Such political prominence once again accorded to the Muslims, they helped them to reinstate the area and take the lead until 1948. Worth of notice is the fact that whilst the Rakhine returnees preferred the south of Rathedaung, the Muslims preferred to the north of Rakhine.306 By 1945, the demographic structure of former Akyab District had suffered a major upheaval, and Muslim had outnumbered in most part of the district. British forces fought fierce battle against the Japanese. The impact of war was great on the people of Northern Arakan. British were successful in penetrating into Southern Arakan in late 1944 and early 1945. Japanese army retreated sometime with heavy casualties.
Arakan at the Eve of Independence
With the advent to the power of Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPL) and General Aung San in 1947, Rakhine Muslims (or) Rohingyas demanded an independent region with a large degree of autonomy within the Union of Burma. Before independence, there were a lot of Indians in Arakan. Some of them had voiced the notion of separation. But the Rohingyas did not favor it. Jinnah himself assured General Aung San that he was not in support of the plan.307 Burmese Government, however, turned a blind eye to the demand of Muslim outcry. Rakhine the foe of Rohingya during the war was taking the administration. Rakhines replaced the vast majority of Muslim local notables and civil servants installed by British. Some Rakhine internally displaced during the communal riot of 1942 were returned and Muslims who occupied their land, removed. Rakhine hardliners strongly suggested expelling these Muslims to India. All these acts of Pre-lndependence period, as many had assessed, led the Muslims to an uprising, which we will study in a separate chapter.
In March 1946, General Aung San visited Akyab, where he assured the Muslim leaders; advocate U Pho Khaing, advocate U Yasin. advocate U Khalilur Rehman and Sultan Mahmood (Ex-Health Minister), of the full national rights in post independence Burma. Most interesting and note worthy is the fact that on the very day of Bokyoke Aung San’s martyrdom, he had a special appointment with Muslim M.L.Cs. from Northern Arakan, Mr. Sultan Ahmed of Maungdaw and Mr Abdul Gaffar of Buthidaung, in connection with the nationality and political status of Muslims or Rohingyas of Arakan. He (Bokyoke) had also assigned Sultan Mahmood and U Aung Zan Wai to go Maungdaw and Buthidaung, so as to organize the public there for Pa-Sa-Pha-La (AFPFL).
Aung Zan Wai of Arakan styled as sole representative of all Arakan peoples, where U Razak claimed to represent all Muslims of Burma. At the same time, Arakan or Northern Arakan was not in the scheduled area or hill administration. Thus Rohingyas lost the chance to attend the historic Pinlon Conference of nationalities of hill regions and plain dwelling Burman, which deprived them of their future political guarantee. In practice, Rakhine Aung Zan Wai acted against the interest of Rohinya and Muslim Razzak did nothing good for the Rohingyas either.
On the eve of independence most of the Rakhine leaders were more co-operative with the Burmese leaders. They did not want to displease the Burmese leaders with whom they always show affinity of race and cultuie. Then motive perhaps, was to deprive Rohingyas of their political lights through the help of Buimese leadership. Thus Rakhine did not demand separate statehood on the time of independence and in the framing of first Burmese constitution.
But after the independence most of the pre-independence time leaders became aged or died. Now the Ra-Ta-Nya group of Arakan came to the front to demand statehood for Arakan. Demand and counter demand of statehood continued Rohingya M. Ps. opposed the statehood for Arakan along with the M. Ps from Sandoway District M. P Abul Bashar from Buthidaung south put his recommendation to let them live in the sea rather than in a pond. He said unitary system is the sea where state means a pond. He said unitary system was better for a country like Burma, so as to secure its solidarity.308 Another upper house member from Buthidaung, Mr. Abdul Gaffar asked the parliament to supply them arms and ammunitions to fight against the Mujahids. He said Rohingyas are neither separatists nor fundamentalists. Once the Government treats them fairly and equally they (Rohingyas) are the first to fight the Mujahids.309
This Mujahid broke out immediately afler the independence. In the prevailing situation of discriminatory actions said above,the Muslims faced some more adverse actions and antagonistic surrounding, as the Communist and P. V. 0. branches of Arakan went underground in 1948. The Muslims feeling insecure organized an arm revolt in the name of Mujahid, though many Muslims at the same time did not want to involve in unlawful anti-state activities. This was one of the main reasons the Mujahids had to surrender, later.
On the other hand various study commission appointed by the Government had had tested the public opinion throughout Arakan concerning the issue of Arakan State. But on 2nd March 1962, General Ne Win took over the state power by a coup. Parliament was dissolved and the question of Federalism and Statehood for Arakan came into a halt.
The population figures in British censuses became an important factor, in political deliberation of post independence Burma. Sometimes the figures are highlighted to disgrace Rohingyas and to deny them indigenous status.
The first population census taken in Burma was in the year 1872, and the next one was in 1881and thereafter once in ten years. 1941 census was not completed due to the eruption of the war. Censuses in 1953 and 1954 were partial and confined to selected regions in several places.
In the first census, two major groupings of Muslims were found, each one of which had several subdivisions: Indian Muslims and Burmese Muslims. The first grouping included Muslims from Indian region of Surat, Bengal and Madras Burmese Muslims were found mostly in Arakan, Tavoy and Mergui. [Upper Burma was not included in the first British census]. The Arakanese Muslims then numbered 64.000 (Sixty-four thousand) or about two third of total number of Burmese Muslims, which were 99,846 [Today these also are deprived of National Scrutiny Cards]. The percentage of Muslims in Tavoy and Mergui was also high. They were likewise Malays there.
The second census included much more detailed information on the Muslim population and revealed an increase in the Muslim population in every district except that of Northern Arakan. [In this lesser increase, there included the returnees, who left Arakan in previous political strife].
The census in Burma was always taken as a part of general census of India. Muslims were categorized Sheikh, Syed, Mogul, Pathan and so on as in Indian census. In 1891, Muslims of all Burma numbered 253,640 where as 204,846 were listed under the title Sheikhs, out of whom Burmese Muslims (Including Arakanese) are shown to be only 24,647, which in first census was over 60,000. It was impossible (This was inefficiency of census taking. In fact, Arakanese Muslims are neither Sheikhs nor Sayids, nor Pathan, nor Moguls.They are just Rohingyas or Arakanese Muslims].
The census of 1901 and 1911, both went on the former line of Indian census taking. In these, the Muslims of Akyab were 33.66% or over a third of the region’s population. It is here (in Akyab) that over 44% of all Burma’s Muslims were concentrated. In examining the Muslim population distribution in the urban and rural areas, it is important to pay attention to the Akyab region where a great many Muslims were engaged in Agriculture. Except from this one area, the rural Muslim population did not even reach one percent of the rural population of the country. [In British census, Immigrants from India are said to be traders, office workers and laborers. Especially the immigrants in Arakan were mostly seasonal laborers. Most of these workers, traders dwell in urban areas, in contrast to the Arakanese Muslims (or) Rohingyas who mostly lived in rural areas professing agriculture].
In 1911, when Muslims of Akyab included, 31.15% of the Muslims were urban and it made up 13.4% of the total urban population of the country. When Akyab was excluded, the urban Muslims percentage became 58.35% [This variation indicates that Muslims in Akyab region were mostly dwellers in rural area unlike the immigrants who chose to dwell in towns.]
1921 census shows, Muslim populations of 500,592 out of which one forth are Burmese Muslims embracing Zerbadies and Arakanese Muslims. Beginning with the census of 1921, the categories in use in India – Sheikhs, Sayyeds etc. were dropped in Burma.In 1921, the number of Arakanese Muslims reached the figure of 24,000, which differed with previous census. The discrepancies were due to the concept of the “term”. The Arakan Kamans were for the first time listed separately, there were 1,054 men and 1,126 women. They were all Muslims except for ten men and four women, who were Buddhists The Arakanese Muslims were the second largest subdivision of the category “Burman Muslim” after the Zerbadees.
The 7th and last complete census was held in 1931. Total Muslim population was 584,839 representing 396,504 Indian Muslims and 186,861 Burmese Muslims (including Arakanese Muslims) 41% of Muslims were to be found in the single region of Arakan. (Since 1921, Muslims from Arakan demanded not to mix them with foreign Muslims but the British Government did not comply with their demand. (See census report of 1931].
Even the Muslims who were very much like Rakhine were included in the category of Indian Muslims in 1921 census. In 1931 they became Burman-lndian. The census table shows that 68% of the Muslims are Indian and only 30% belonged to the Burmese-Muslim group. The majorities were Zerbadees and Arakanese Muslims, while remainders were Kamans and Myedus. [But today almost all Muslims from Arakan disregard of their origin are degraded to the status of Foreigners],
Census figures were not correct, because in 1921 census, many Arakanese Muslims were listed as Indians. In 1931 census, many Arakanese Muslims claimed Bengali as their mother tongue, although the Zerbadess usually were shown as Burmese or Arakanese (depending on their residence) as their mother tongue. [Here it is obvious that Rakhine speaking Muslims of Arakan were also regarded as Zeibadees]
The Burmese Muslim grouping included Zerbadees, Arakanese Muslims, Kamans and Myedus. Most of the Arakanese Muslims were in Akyab region. But there were large number of them to be found in other regions as well: in Chittagong 1,597 and in Sandoway 1,658. Their total number in 1931 was 51.615. (This is not real number, because Rohingyas were categorized as Indians. The number of Kamans was increased from 2,186 to 2,886; they were concentrated in the region of Akyab and Chiltagong. [l cannot understand why Moshe Yegar mentioned Chittagong to home some Kamans whereas we see the Kamans dwell mostly in Arakan]. The Myedus increased 4,991 to 5,160.
In the partial census of 1954, the figures shown in the villages of Arakan were 56.75% Buddhist and 41.60% Muslims.310
Here are two points to remark. One is the census return of Arakan where seasonal laborers, who usually return to their birthplace, were included Dr. Than Tun named them as a floating people because they used to come on season of woik and return when the season is over.311 Second point is the Majority Muslims of Arakan were mixed up with Indians both ethnically and religiously. Further it is probable that the census activities of that time did not penetrate into the remote hilly areas of Northern Arakan as was the case in connection of hilly regions of Chins and Kachin States.
To sump up, Arakanese Muslims are a major portion of Burmese Muslims. This name sounds national naturally. Since there is no entity as Burmese Muslim in Burmese social and political arena when Burma Muslim Congress (Ba-Ma-Ka) was expelled from Pha-Sa-Pa-La in 1948 on ground of its name being religiously affiliated, there is no Arakanese Muslims too. So those Arakanese Muslims have to choose their ethnic name Rohingya rather than religious name Arakanese Muslim. Rohingya is nothing but an antiquity of Arakan. Last thing we can observe the censuses of British period were always changing. The number of population and races or ethnic groups found changed up from census to census.312
GEOPOLITICAL FACTOR CONCERNING ROHIGYA’S NATIONALITY
In previous chapters we have obviously seen the facts, which show Rohingya’s deeply rooted historic existence in Arakan. In other word Arakan is Rowang and Rohingya is Arakanese. So Rohingya’s existence in Arakan is as old as the land itself. Let us go into detail so that we have a clear vision of this subject.
Historical evolution and geographic situation always affects the life of a people.Arakna’s political link with India had been deeper, greater and longer than that of with Burma proper. Geographers plainly remark that Arakan is a continuation of Chiltagong plain and is separated by Arakan-Yoma range from Burma Culturally too, until 10th century, everything in Arakan from language, religion and scriptures to ethnic people, were all Indian. The cultural and ethnic characteristics of ancient Arakan are today found in Rohingyas and the Buddhist Bruwas of Arakan only.
A researcher of ancient Arakan history says dividing Rakhine coast from the rest of Myanmar, the Rakhine Yoma mountain range historically has been a barrier between Myanmar and Indian subcontinent. Hence the range, not only functions as a climate barrier (cutting off the south-west monsoon rain from central Myanmar) but historically functioned as natural obstacle against permanent settlement of Muslims dwellers and further as a visible and accepted fracture between the two subcontinents. The latter therefore preferred to settle down on the shores of the Naf River and along the coast of Bay of Bengal.313 So another author rightly concluded,these geographical facts explain the separate historical development of that area Arakan until it was conquered by the Burmese kingdom at the close of 18th century.314
The 20th century witnessed an acceleration of history of some sorts: where Rakhine Muslims and Buddhists alike had a massively out (only) once per century in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, namely: clash between Prince Shah Shujah and the Mrauk-U king (Sanda Thudamma) in 1664, Burmese conquest of Arakan in 1784, first Anglo-Burmese war in 1824.The recurrent of displacement occurred in the 20th century, with four massive exoduses, namely second-world war, the Mujahid rebellion in the 1950s, the exodus of 1978 (Operation Dragon King, “Nagamin”) and the recent 1991 outflow.315
These occurrences of human fluctuations indeed have some cultural as well as ethnic effects on both sides of the border. There are today a great many Rakhines in Chittagong area, despite their massive official repatriation by U Ne Win’s Government, where as there are Bengalis in Arakan indeed. The Rakhines adopted a life suitable in Bengali environment, where as the Bengalis in Arakan are too acculturated to Rakhine situations. The Bengalis in Arakan today hardly be said to be identical with those in Bangladesh.
In official rhetoric and publications Rakhine Muslims (Rohingya) are said to speak Bengali. This, however, reveals inaccurate, as the Bengali language spoken in Decca, does not belong to the same stock of language in Arakan and has a very few in common with the language spoken in Northern Rakhine State. More correctly the local language spoken by Rakhine Muslims is a Chittagonian dialect, an idiom spoken in Bangladesh region, bordering Rakhine State. Whilst being very close to the Chittagonian dialect, it is by no means identical. For example, the Rakhine Muslims dialect is indicative of historical residency in Myanmar, as it approximately includes as much as 10 – 15 percent of Rakhine words and expressions.316
A factor most worthy is that Arakan and Chittagong from the early Christian era to the end of Mrauk-U dynasties, for many, many centuries had been under the same rule. Sometimes there were political fluctuations. D. G E. Hall says that Arakan managed to maintain itself as an independent kingdom until almost the end of the eighteenth century, mainly due to its geographical position ……… From the very early days the older and purer form of Buddhism, the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle, was established there. It must date from before the arrival of Burmese in the 10th century, when Arakan was an Indian land, with a population of similar to that of Bengal ……….. And although before the establishment of Mrohong by Narameikhia in 1433, there was from time to time a certain amount of Burmese and Mon interference.Arakan’s contacts with Mohammedan India were probably closer than those with Burma. None of its rivers rises in Burma and throughout its history its water communications with Bengal were easier than it’s over land communication with Burma. When Bengal was strong its rulers received tiibute fioin Arakan; at other times Arakan claimed tribute from parts of Ganges Delta. This fluctuation of power affected Chittagong, which was held alternatively by one side or the other.In 1459 it came into the hands of Arakan, which held it until it was finally annexed to the Mogul Empire in 1666. Monammedanism spread to Arakan, but failed to make much impression upon its Buddhism. Mrohong had its Sandhi Khan Mosque and its kings assumed Mohammedan titles, but the predominance of Buddhism was never shaken.317
Burma share borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Various ethnic minorities along all these borders dwell. Most of these minorities have their mainstream clans across the border on the other side. For example, Kuki Chins, Zhomi and Naga on the Indian border: Wa, Kukeng and Zinphaw on the eastern border and Chakmas and Bruwas on the Bangladesh border, all of them today, are amongst so called 135 ethnic minorities of SPDC Government. All of those people’s mainstream cmlans live beyond the border in adjacent countries. Some of them have their own Autonomous States in Bangladesh, India and China.\/Vhen Senior General Thant Shwe of Myanmar visited Yonan Province of China in the year 2000, Kachin females in their Kachin national dresses lined up along the street to give rousing welcome to the General. Even Shans in South-East Shan State speak a Siamese dialect In Arakan the Chakma and Bruwa too speak Chitlagonian dialect.318 Genealogically and culturally Bruwas have a very close affinity with Bengalis. Yet U HIa Tun Pru put Bruwa at the par with Burmese speaking Rakhine, and said Bmwa is from Rakhme’s ethnic stock. Then, what about the miliions of Bruwas in Bangladesh? Would they be from Rakhine ethnic stock too? Next, ihe Chakmas of Chittagong hill tracts have their own autonomous region. The Chakma, whom we called in Myanmar Dainet, too, speak Bengali.319 Yet all these peoples are designated as Burmese indigenous peoples. This logic is not applied in the case of Rohingyas, who have further more long inter-relationship with Arakan. Without mentioning Rohingya, Arakan history, both ancient and modern cannot be said to be complete.
Sayadaw Winmala writes there have been political and cultural link between Arakan and Bengal for centuries. So almost all ethnic people in Arakan have an affinity with their clans in Bengal, especially the Bruwas speak the same language as Chitagomans.320
If we accept all these different minorities, with their affinities with clans across the borders, why don’t we want it to apply in the case of Rohingya? Indeed. Rohingya alone has a more deeply rooted connection with Arakan as we have seen above and previous chapters. The world today has many instances of such phenomena: Malays in Southern Thailand, Vietnamese in Cambodia, Nepalese in Bhutan and many others in Europe. These all can co-exist peacefully and honorably in their respective residency. I hope this sort of harmony would prevail in Arakan, too.
ROHINGYA AND BENGALI
Since early settlers of Arakan were Indo-Aryan or a people similar to that of Bengal, Rohingya cannot disclaim their genealogical link with Bengali. As time passed, sociopolitical situations have also changed during last centuries. In this context, Rohingya too evolved as an ethnic entity with its own characteristics. In a broader perspective, all are Myanmar, but there still are some separate branches of Myanmar. So we can say Rohingya can be defined as a branch of Bengali but their existence is in Arakan alone; Arakanese alone are, in another word, called Rohingya.
A Senior British military officer remarks: the Arakan Muslims are generally known as Bengalis or Chittagonians, quite incorrectly. [……….] They resemble the Arabs in names, in dress and in habit. [………..] As a race they have been here for over two hundred years and yet survive. They are perhaps to be compared with the Jews, a nation within a nation.321
Foreign observers remarks: In official rhetoric and publications, Rakhine Muslims (Rohingyas) are said to speak Bengali. This however reveals inaccurate, as the Bengali language spoken in Decca does not belong to the same stock of language and has very few in common with the language spoken in Northern Rakhine State. More correctly the local language spoken by Rakhine Muslim is a Chittagonian dialect, an idiom spoken in the Bangladesh region bordering Rakhine State. Whilst being very close to the Chittagonian dialect, it is by no means identical. For example; the Rakhine Muslim dialect is indicative of historical residency in Myanmar, as it approximately includes as much as 10-15 percent Rakhine words and expression.322 Even Chittagonian could not understand the dialect of Rohingyas who resides in inner Arakan Rohingya and Chittagonian can communicate with some adjustment of words, phrases and style of expression. Rohingya dialect is influenced by Arabic, Persian and Rakhine words where as Chittagonian dialect is influenced by Sanskrit and Bengali.
Bengali wears long sleeved loose shirts, keeping it out of their Longyi or Pant where as most Rohingya wear shirts, with collar, keeping the lower part under their Longyi Rohingyas have a traditional shirt caller “Entheri” more similar to today’s Malaysian shirt.Female dress differed much Rohingya women do not wear Sari, as the Bengalis, but a Burmese women’s shirt-like Bazu or Blouse, with a shawl on their heads. Young girls wear woolen belts, where elderly women wear Zali (Khah-Gyo), a flat locally woven cotton sheet. Most elderly Rakhine women, too wear this Khah-Gyo, especially in the rural areas.
Further there is a slight difference in physical features. In Bangladesh itself, the people of Chittagong have fairer skin than the people of other districts. Here these fair skinned Chittagonians compared with Rohinnya, appeared in average darker. Most Rohingya have Tibeto-Burman features too. It is perhaps due to some (though rare) mix-marriages, adoption of Rakhine children and some conversions in the early period.
Concerning the dresses of Rohinyya a prominent Burmese writer and politician, U Thein Pe Myint says: I put up at Ko Tun Win’s house at Kyauktaw. At that time there Muslirn-Rakhine communal riot was going on. So we had to take care not to fall in between and I bought a Pathi cap (Muslim cap) and kept my beard unshaved. Next morning when we were sitting in the parlor of Ko Tun Win’s house, a man appealed in strange dress; now a day no one wears this sort of dress. The man was about 25 years old. He wore a dark-gray Dhoti (Tongshay Petso) a Taing-mathein like shirt (a shirt with long sleeves but without color). He had Gaungbaung-like headdress of thin cotton cloth. He did wear moustache and a beard I did not understand the subject they discussed as they talked in Arakanese. When I inquired about him: Ko Tun Win answered he was our Arakanese Muslim. It is learned that in villages of Arakan many more people still did not discard early Myanmar-like dresses. When I saw this Muslim with headdress of thin cotton sheet, I thought of whether it was better (for me) to imitate like Burmese Muslim with my Pathi cap (in this period of riot). Here I realized that Arakanese hold tight and preserved old Burmese culture and tradition.323
Rohingya foods have much influence of Rakhine cooking style, where some Rakhine too have adopted the Rohingya cooking styles in some cases. The procedure of marriage, engagement and feeding feast diffet, a lot. There is no infant marriage amongst Rohingyas.
The sports of “Hlay” (Row Boat) racing, wrestliny, and the race of Buffalo have special Rohingya characteristics. Voluntary roofing of houses, transplanting of paddy turn by turn, in villages were a traditional custom in Rohingya Group hunting and fishing, but distributions to all in the villages-were also a tradition until recently Rohingyas have their own musical instruments. They have “Baittali” (song of wisdom) and “Khabita” (Rhetoric) competitions and many outdoor sports and games for children’s enjoyment. Many decades ago there were Persian song competitions.
In fact Rohingya have some selection and rejection of professions. Few Rohingya do sanitary works and hair cutting: cloth washing and shoe repairing professions are also disliked.
In personal behaviors Rohingyas are a bit rough and easily get tempered. Most Rohingyas are pious but not fanatics. Reciting “Puthi”, “some love and war stories” in the early night of their leisure time, too is a hobby of Rohingya.
THE CULTURE OF ROHINGYA
The Arakanese Muslims (Rohingyas) are Sunnite despite some preponderance of some Shiite traditions among them. Under their influences many Muslim customs spread to the Buddhist, such as for example, segregation of their womenfolk. Writers and Poets appeared among the Arakanese Muslims, who called themselves Rohingya, especially during the fifteen to eighteen centuries, and even there were some court poets at the court of Arakanese kings.324
The poets and writers wrote in Persian and Arabic or in a mixed Rohingya language, which they developed among themselves and which was a mixture of Bengali, Urdu, and Arakanese (Rakhine). The language is not as widely spread today as it was in the past and it has been largely replaced by Burmese. Their Artists also developed the art of Calligraphy. Some manuscripts has been preserved but have not yet been scientifically examined. Miniature pointing in the Mogul style also flourished in Arakan during this period. The Muslims who came to Arakan (There were native Muslims too) brought with them Arab, Indian and especially Bengali music and musical instruments Persian songs are sung amongst Rohingya by this day.325
This is how the Rohingya preserved their own heritage from the impact of the Buddhist environment not only as far as their religion but also in some aspects of their culture.326
Again, an eminent history researcher, Dr. Than Tun says, because of North Arakan’s close overland ties with Bengal, it is found that after Bengal became Muslim in 1203, the resulting cultural and political influence of the Muslims was of great significance in the history of Arakan.327
Of interest, none-the-less is an ancient stone carved with Arabic letters, which can still be seen at Mrauk-U National Museum. While some remnants of this ancient culture can still be detected in today’s life of Rakhine Muslims, it is decidedly striking to realize that most of this culture was lost due to massive displacements of population (Four times in 20th century) which contributed to fade out; if not annihilate, the cultural fabrics. Yet there are many who acculturated to Rakhine society.328
Historic edifices and monuments are found through out Arakan. I would like to describe only their political aspects, as their archeological aspect is not within the scope of this treatise.
- Badar Mokam: The exact date of the abode is uncertain. British records say it was founded in A.D. 1756. (I think it is the date of the construction of the Mosque adjacent to the abode], by the Muslims of Akyab in memory of one Bader Aulia, whom they regard as an eminent Saint (It proves the presence of Muslims in Akyab in 18th century]. Colonel Nelson Davis in 1876. Deputy Commissioner of Akyab said, some 140 years ago, two traders from Chittagong on their way back from Negaris, constructed the Cave and also dug a well there. It was because one of the traders was instructed in his dream to do so. There were orders in Persian in the Deputy Commissioner’s Court at Akyab, to the effect that one Hussein Ali, then (Thugyi) headman of Buddamaw Circle was to have charge of the Badar Mokam in token of his good services rendered to the British force in 1825. 329 [This signifies two things: One, Persian was until then official language of Arakan and the other that there were Muslim settlements in Akyab before British occupation, a fact which some circles try to deny.] This Badar Mokam comprised two Caves and a Mosque. Archeological descriptions of these are not detailed here.
- The Sandhi Khan Mosque: R. B. Smart says, two and a half mile southeast of the palace (Mrohong) is another non-Buddhist temple. It is a Mohammedan Mosque, called Sandhi Khan, built by the followers of Min Zaw Mun (First Mrauk-U King) after he had returned from 24 years of exile in the Suratan (Sultan) country form A.D. 1406 to 1430. South of the road, which leads to the Alezay Ywa, there are two large tanks with stone embankments; between them is the Mosque, surrounding by a low stonewall. The temple court measures 65 feet from north to south and 82 feet from east to west, the shrine is a rectangular structure 33 feet by 47 feet: it consist-of an ante-room, an inner chamber, which is 19 feet square. Passages lead into the ante-room from the temple court from the north, south and east, while from the west side of the ante-room a passage leads into the inner and principle chamber; the passages arch vaulted the arch consisting of a series of wedge-shaped stones. The inner chamber is lighted by narrow openings in the north and south walls, the ante-room is vaulted, but outside the roof over it, is a slanting plane from the copula of the central chamber to the eastern front wall of the building which is only 9 feet high: the ceiling of the chamber is a hemispherical low copula constructed on the same principle as the domes in the Shitthaung and Dukhanthein Pagodas. The whole shrine is built of well cut stone blocks, but it is absolutely bare of all decorated designs.330. This Mosque is one of the invaluable heritages of Rohingya.But recently it was demolished and used for a military camp. This act is in violation of 1982 UNESCO convention of which Burma is a party too.
- Maijjah Mosque: It is situated about three miles east of Mrohong. It was built with well-cut stones. Perhaps it was built by U Musa; a missionary came from Delhi, in the time of 9th King of Mrauk-U, Zaleta Saw Mun.
- Alam Lashkar Mosque: It is at the Pann Mraung village of Minbya The term “Lashker” indicates army and perhaps it was built by one of the army officers of Mrauk-U Kings.
- Shwe Dah Qazi Mosque: It is at the Kyit Taung Village of Minbya. It is obvious from the name that it was built by Qazi Abdul Karim, who was awarded Shwe Dah(Gold Sword) by Bodaw Pya, and was known by the name Shwe Dah Qazi.
- Adjacent to the palace: there too was a Mosque and a tank with stone embankment.It was known as Nan Oo Mosque and Nantha Kan respectively. The tank still exists where as the Mosque was abolished some years ago.
- Babagyi Mosque and Temple: on the bank of Kandawgyi (Lake), Akyab, Musa Dewan Mosque of Nazir Village cemetery. Akyab; Qazi Mosque of Kyauktaw Town are other historic buildings and hentages of Muslims.
- According to the record of Encyclopedia Britannica 1994 – 98 the Rakhine Pali (Mosque) in Yangon is the oldest Mosque in Myanmar. Tachan Pel Mosque, near Aung San Sport Stadium was also built by Rakhine Muslims during the time of Myanmar Kings.
- Shrines or Temple of Saints of early periods are found in Buthidaung too; Peer Khalasi Meah’s Temple in Baguna Village, Akram All Shah Dargah at Mrongna Village, Sikander Shah Dargah at Buthidaung Town are still preserved by local Muslims.
- There is another Mosque at Khyaik Talan Road, Shwedaung Quarter, Moulmein. It is known as Rakhine Mosque nowadays. There are different versions of its history.Some say it was built by some Arakanese Muslims from Rangoon in 18th century. The real fact is in the invasion of Rakhine King Min Razagyi (1595 -1612) to Pegu and Muttama; there consisted about fifty thousand Muslims forces (According to Dannya Waddy Aredopon and other Rakhine chronicles). The Muslim force built that Mosque in Moulmein.
- Coins: Coins in early Arakan were in Indian script and with sign of Civism and Hinduism. Coins of Mrauk-U period are of Muslim designs, some bearing the confession of Muslim faith and in Persian scripts.331
- Literature: Literature in Arakan changed along wilh its political evolution. During Dannya Waddy and Wethali periods, the language of the people was Indian. They wrote in Nagari script as in East Bengal.Almost all inscriptions stone, copper or votive, were either in Pali, Sanskrit or in a language used in Bengal. Burmese inscriptions are found after 10th century A.D.332 In this late period, especially in Mrauk-U period, Persian was also used widely. Most of King’s courtiers were Muslims who preferred to keep record or write in Peisian. Many books are found in Rohingya language but in Persian scripts. Many copies of these manuscripts are still preserved in the hand of Rohingyas. Some are found in Calligraphic form. During 17th and 18th centuries courtiers and senior officials were mostly of Bengali literacy merit. They wrote Bengali books, and Rohingya language in Bengali script. The development of Bengali literature was encouraged by Rakhine Kings.333
During British period Urdu was introduced and Urdu schools all over Arakan were established. But this Urdu language preferred by Indian Muslims in Burma proper, too was a foreign language for Rohingya. Thus Urdu made them much backward. It was of no use in post-independence Burma. Many Urdu educated persons had to quit their Government services. New job opportunities for Urdu learners were nil. Now-a-days Rohingyas learn and write Burmese.
- Stone and Copper Plate Inscriptions: According to Dr. Kanungo, a copper plate was found in Chittagong in 1857 indicating the names of some Muslim ministers of Arakan and its high-ranking Muslim officials. Another stone inscription with Arabic letters is said still to be preserved in Mrauk-U Museum.334 Again there is another stone plate of 3 ½’ x 2′ was discovered Thara Ouk Village, Mrohong. It consist,eight lines of Persian script which indicate that Arakanese Kings engraved 23 tons of gold some where prescribed in the stone plate.335
Still more interesting is the discovery of stone inscriptions, by G. H. Luce, formerly History Professor of Rangoon University.Dr.Than Tun, an eminent historian of Myanmar in his article, Northern Rakhine, in Kaliya Magazine, August 1994, said the Chindwin Stone inscription of 14th century, preserved in Tuparun Temple, Sagaing, testify that there were Muslim Kings, with Indian names in Arakan.These kings, he said, had a very good relation with Ava Kings.
So all these inscriptions show the antiquity of Rohingya people and these are regarded to be their cultural heritages.
- Ananda Sandra Stone Monument or Shitthaung Temple Pillar of Arakan: This Pillar was erected by King Ananda Sandra in 8th century. It has an extensive record of life, culture and successive kings of ancient Arakan. It is an invaluable heritage of Arakan, which Arakanese people regard to be very authentic and they are proud of it. So mentioning it here under the headline of culture of Rohingya may draw some indignant and criticism from some circle. Though Rakhine people say this monument is their historical heritage, my reason to mention it here is the language thereon, is different from Rakhine people but similar to Rohingya language.
This Pillar contains records from ancient to 10th century A.D. This and many other inscriptions found in Arakan are in Nagari alphabets, and the language thereon is very much nearer to Rohingya language. So Rohingyas say that they have had historic connection with these ancient inscriptions.
This inscription was first read by Dr. John Ston of Oxford University in 1935-1942. Later it was studied by Dr. D. C Sircir. Dr. Ston’s transliteration was later copied by U San Tha Aung and Dr. Pamela Gutman. Though, I cannot directly take the meaning of the sentences on the pillars. I found almost all vocabularies there are pronounced as if what we find in Rohingya language today. The script on the east face of the pillar closely resembles what of 6th century Gupta copper plate of Bengal.336
Correct and actual reading is not possible, because some writings were defaced. Pamela Gutman says, the Paleography of the inscriptions suggests that most forms derive from the Gaudia or Proto Bengali style prevalent in Bengal, retaining some old forms side by side with later developments and also introducing a few forms in contemporary West Indian scripts. An almost complete alphabet can be reconstructed by comparison of the inscriptions with the inscriptions of the Candra dynasty of Bengal.337
Let us make a comparative study of these inscriptions on the north face of Shitthaung Pillar from Pamela Gutman’s writings:
The first inscription occupies seven lines. Only the last letters can be read, which are Cakarari, Caturddasame, Raksoka and Krtarajyah.
Eighth line begins with Svasti Sri? Meaning, Village Sri?
Certain sections of next inscription have three columns, i.e. left side column, middle column and right side column.
Left Side Column
1-40 idan maya Krtam – This way we love
1-41 iva damsadesa – This vicled country
1-42 Areka desa vijayam – Victor country Araka
(It is the name of the country in 11th century).
In the Middle Column
Yaksapura – raja King of Raksapura (It is ancient name of
Arakan as called by Indians
In the Right Column
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>ha manarajah (Sim)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>ghya (ya) sri Govindra Candra
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>devatam karta (in)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>tattasya deva
In the last of the column
Agni pradesa – – Agni – Meaning not clear
Pradesa – a country or a foreign country.338
All these words and phrases are very similar to Rohingya dialect. We can see a comparative study of vocabularies, taking it from Pamela’s transliteration and translation of North Face of Shitthaung Pillar.
Verse No. 4
Text of Pillar Rohingya Rakhine English
Talon Tarto Tonauk Then
Jagata Jagat Kabba World
Varsam Vasar Hnaik Year
Satam Shat Thara Hundred
Bhupalo Bhupal Aashin Strong one
Verse No. 5
Tena Tene Thu He
Krtm Karten Loukthi did
Rajyan Rashtri Oukchoukthi reign
Verse No. 6
Nama Naame Amee shi Named
Raja Rajah Bayin/Min King
Jani-a-Sakat Janatre Pyithugo/Ludugo To Public
Toto Raja Lok Janitasa Raja Tara Jane Bayin Mya Thie thi The Kings Knows
Verse No. 7
Ikam Ekk Thaik One
Thasmad Tharfar Tohnauk Then
Verse No. 8
Nitiri Vikramap Nitirnote Thara Thapyint Justly
Verse No. 52
Deni DeniDeni Nezin Daily
U San Tha Aung, Director General of Higher Education Department, also transliterated these inscriptions in Burmese letters. A comparative study of numerals contain in the inscription bring us to the conclusion that Rohingya numerals and the one in the inscriptions are the same. For example;
Verse No. Numerals in Rohingya Rakhine
17,41 Dhuwi Dhui Hnaik
13 Therai Teen Thaong
31 Pansa Pans Ngaa
25 Chau Sau Khrouk
14,16,26,30 Chaat Chaat/Hantti Khunaik
35 Dhuwa Dosh Dosh Dhui Sehnaik
9, 22,115 Vish Vish/Khuree Hnasei
35 Thirish Thirish Thonsei
55 Panchas Panchas Ngasei
and many others are also similarly pronounced in Rohmgys dialect.339
Here notable things are:
- The verses were transliterated from defaced scripts.
- I have difficulties to produce correct pronunciation from the transliteration.
- So I cannot transliterate or translate the whole sentence or the whole inscription in Rohingya language.
So far, a rough study of this transliteration of Pamela Gutman made me to comprehend that the language of the inscription is different a lot from Rakhine language and very much nearer to the Rohingya language. So I bring this Shitthaung Pillar inscription under the headline of Rohingya’s culture. I think a scientific study in this regard by scholars is a need of time.
Under the agreement signed by General Aung San and British Prime Minister Ettaly, on 27th January 1947, Burma was to gain her independence soon. But this agreement required getting the consent of peoples in scheduled areas or hilly regions. So after his return from England, General Aung San convened a historic conference at Pinlon, Southern Shan State, gathering all minorities from the hilly regions. Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin and many others signed an agreement to take independence together with the Burman’s of plain area. This time Rakhine leaders did not demand statehood for Arakan, though they had demanded it in the round table conference of London, from November 1931 to January 1932. Thus when Burma became independent on 4th Junuaary 1948, Arakan became a Division of it. For smooth running of the country Burmese Government enacted many laws and acts, from 1947. Some of them are:
- Union of Burma, Constitution, 1947.
- Burma Immigration Emergency Provision Act 1947.
- Burma Independence Act 1948
- Union Citizenship Act, 1948
- Foreigners Registration Act, 1948.
- The Residence of Myanmar Registration Act. 1949.
- Burma Immigration (Detention) Rule of 1951.
Almost all of these laws were intended to safeguard national interest and to classify status of peoples residing in Burma. In British period all, citizens, national peoples and foreigners, enjoyed equal rights. But after independence interest of the nationals or national peoples are considered to have priority and in this regard, all above Laws and Acts were enacted. Remarkable thing here is Muslims from Arakan State, despite their affinity with Bengal, were given full citizenship rights. This Muslim people comprises of almost half the total Arakan population. From 1947 Constituent Assembly of General Aung San, to the 1990, SLORC sponsored Parliamentary election, the Muslims or Rohingyas got the right to elect and to be elected. I believe this alone is sufficient to recognize Rohingya’s citizenship today.Since independence Government provided schools, hospital, medical centers and post offices in the midst of Rohingyas. All facilities, due to citizens, were provided by the Government to Rohingyas. Rohingyas more or less were allowed to get into Government services including the military service. Rohingyas were issued Burmese Passports to travel to foreign countries.They all were issued N. R. Cs. under said Residence Registration Act and its subsequent rules. According to the said rule, section 33. no foreigners can be issued this N R.Cs.
There were some sorts of discriminations, suppressive mechanism and some undue harassment against this Rohingyas during the periods of former Governments. But the whole community was not denied citizenship rights. There were freedom of movement, ownership, profession and worship. All children can study in government schools and qualified ones can join the Institutions and Universities including Professional ones.
It is a hot question in the context of Arakan history. Some used to brand them as separatists, where some other said they were extreme racists. Now a day some are going to say they are alien to Burma. But the speeches delivered by responsible and top military dignitaries of that time, at the surrendering ceremony of Mujahids, proved they (the Mujahids) are not aliens but part and parcel of Burmese society. The former notions too, are proved wrong by their deeds, later. In fact one of the main reasons of Mujahid arising is that they felt insecure in the environment of armed groups, as on the eve of independence, both the branches of BCP and Pyithu Yebaw went underground in Arakan. Some Rakhine nationalist such as U Kra HIa Aung, Sayadaw U Sein Dan were also at preparation to stage armed struggle for Arakan Statehood. So in that prevailing situation Muslims too thought, it was right time for them to equip themselves with arms.
Moshe Yegar says, after world war two, the Muslims of Arakan had, again, a separate history, similar to their situation in previous periods. The dominating feature in the events befell the Muslim community of Arakan, in the post war period was, undoubtedly the armed rebellion,known as Mujahid’s rebellion (Mujahid means warrior in a Holy War, Jihad). This movement was localized in the north of Arakan, in the region of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and that part of Rathedaung, which borders with East Bengal.
With the transfer of regime to AFPFL and particularly, after Burma was granted independence, a great many Muslim officers and officials were dismissed and replaced by Arakanese Buddhists. These latter tried to rehabilitate the deserted, ruined Arakanese villages. Part of the Arakan population uprooted during the communal riot at the beginning of the war was returned, and the Muslims who had grabbed their land were removed. These arrangements together with the remembrance of British promises unfulfilled – to establish a national area – led the Muslims to acts of sabotage against the Government.
Most of the population in this area (North Arakan) is Muslim. During the period of British rule disaffection between the Buddhist population and the Muslims in Arakan developed for the same economic and social reasons that caused similar hatred between the two groups as in the rest of Burma.340 [This led to 1942 communal riots and later to Mujahid movements). Here one thing Moshe Yegar did not dibcuss in this book is about the leadership of Mujahids.
I found in my study, the main actor of this movement was one Kawal Jaffar Ahmed, a poet and vocalist educated in Rangoon. He was in Rangoon on the eve of independence. He observed the political situation then and returned to Arakan. He attracted the youths there with his nationalistic songs. He was a native of Kagyal Pek Village, Buthidaung. He mobilized a lot of young men and those government servants ousted by the new government, then. Kawal Jaffar’s lieutenants were C.L. A. Rashid and Abdul Rashid of Bogyi Chaung, whose father was known as Anthora Raja (Limped Chieftain), for his defense of Buthidaung area, in 1942, from the attacks of Rakhine armed gangs intruded from inner Arakan. The other senior Mujahids were Abbas of Thindaung Village, Shafi of Tannmay Village, Buthidaung and Saleh Ahmed of North Maunydaw and schoolteacher Sultan Ahmed of Myothugyi Village, Maungdaw. Within a few years disunity erupted amongst them. Kawal Jaffar was killed by his men and their group was divided into many branches under different leadership. A group led by C.L.A. Rashid made their base at Saing Daing Mountain and he was killed in a major army operation around 1953 and 1954. Another group let by A. Rashid. Abbas and Saleh Ahmed controlled the area north of Buthidaung and Maungdaw. The other group, led by so called Major Qassim, who was famous, perhaps, for his notoriousness control Rathedaung, Maungdaw South and some area around central Maungdaw. He was a cruel and rough man. He served with the British army during the war. He suppressed his own people. He forcibly took contributions or ransom money from the public. He married a lot of young girls. So fathers of fair-looking young girls, had to flee into the towns or to the other side of the country. His cruelty and uncivil deed are still narrated today in local ballads also called “Honla”, which are recited by group of women, especially on the occasion of marriage ceremonies. He forcibly married a young girl, in her early teenage, named Tayoba, daughter of a respected Mulvi Sikander of Tetmin Chaung, Buthidaung. But her father was successful to bring her back from her school in Chittagong with the help of the car driver of Toyuba, by a risky conspiracy. She was married second time to an Immigration Officer and now she lives in HIaing Tharyar Township, Yangon. There is a very popular “Honla” (Ballad) about this Tayuba’s affair with Bo Qassim, which is especially recited by women in groups on the occasions of marriages. Today many Arakanese Muslims are found to have established on the western side of Naf River who fled there during this Mujahid movement.
Major Qassim established his headquarter at Minglagyi Mountain; the attack of Government forces could not remove him from there. But in 1954, Burma got understanding with Pakistan and Major Qassim was arrested in Chittagong. There his followers disintegrated. Many second-class leaders with their own followers roamed in that area for years.They continued to loot and terrorize Muslims and Buddhists alike. Among them were Ragi Ullah and Mutafis, who surrendered in May 1961. Another gang leader was Thurab Ali who did not surrender but after some years fled into East Pakistan. Then Abdul Rasheed surrendered in June 1961. Again two notorious gang leaders Syed Ahmed in Maungdaw north and two brothers Abul Samad and Abul Qassim in Burhidaung north insurrected for years. Abdul Samad was killed during his military raid into the downtown in 1959 and his brother Qassim too was killed in military operation in 1961.
This time northern Arakan became a peaceful place without insurgency. Military administration, in the name of May Yu frontier administration was introduced. Dacoits and thieves were cleared off. People could sleep now leaving their house doors open. People were happy; prosperity began. Peace, tranquility and happiness prevailed there in its real meaning. People admired much to the administrators of that time. But this atmosphere did not last for many years. In about 1969, tnere again a group of insurgent gathered in the west side of Rathedaung, led by one, Zafiar. Later there was another Zaffer too. He was also known as B. A. Zaffar. B. A. Zaffar was a graduate of Rangoon University. He joined with former Zaffar in 1971, after Bangladesh Liberation war. But, they could not resist the major operation from Government side in 1974 and both fled into Bangladesh, where both of them later died. These are Mujahids ranks and files.
What The Mujahids Did:
Moshe Yegar says the rebellion (in 1948) spread quickly, for the central Government was busy putting down the rebellions that broke out in other places in Burma and was unable to devote itself to Arakan. In the beginning the Mujahids even co-operated with Arakanese rebellion that erupted in the south. The two rebel organizations came to an agreement whereby, after the defeat of the AFPFL regime in Arakan, the region would be divided into two independent states. Sober Muslim leaders tried on the one hand to influence the rebels, to desist from their undisciplined behavior, on the other hand to explain to the Government that the rebellion was the work of a handful of individuals, that the vast majority of Arakanese Muslims did not support them and were themselves among the victims of the rebels; and that actually the blame for this rash of rebellions was to be placed at the feet of the Government itself for the mistakes made in handling the sensitive situation, and of the Arakanese leadership for its successful inciting which increased the embittered elements within the Arakanese Muslim community and the hate between the Buddhists and the Muslims. They (the Muslim leaders) further explained that the revolt was contrary to the percept of Islam and that there was no justification whatsoever for the declaration of Jihad.341 There were indeed some Rohingya leaders, who in 1948 demanded arms from U Nu (then Prime Minister) to enable them to fight the rebels, and they repeated this demand again in 1950 and 1951; their demands were not met. In any case they accused the Government of failure in putting down the revolt, a failure that made it impossible for many of these Rohingyas to avoid surrendering to the rebels, being forced to help them against their will, under armed threats against which they had no defense ……… The Government also made attempts to negotiate with the rebels. In July 1948, the Government delegation came to hear them out; the rebels claimed that Rohingyas were indigenous. Sons of Arakan, descendants of Muslim settlers of hundreds of years ago, differing from neighboring Chittagonians despite the similarities in language, culture, race and the identity of the religion. The propaganda of the extremists among the Arakanese attempted to identify them (The Rohingyas) with the Pakistani Muslims.342
Why Mujahid Movement Edured:
Moshe Yeyar writes; Muslims were not accepted for military service. The Government replaced the Muslim civil servants, policemen and headmen by Arakanese who increasingly offended the Muslim community, discriminating against them, putting their elders to ridicule, treating them as Kalahs and even extorting money and bribes from them, and arresting them arbitrarily. The authority made no efforts at all to correct the wrongs against the Rohingyas by mean of educational facilities and economic improvements. The Arakanese (Rakhine) conducted propaganda against the Rohingya, accusing them of being Pro Pakistan and aspiring to annexation to Pakistan, and cast suspicion upon their loyalty to the country The Immigration Authorities imposed limitation of Movements upon Muslims from the regions of Maungdaw, Butnidaung and Rathedaung to Akyab. The Muslims were not resettled in the villages from which they have been driven out in 1942, with exception of villages they left in Maungdaw and Buthidaung regions. Some 13,000 Rohingyas still living in refugee camps in India and Pakistan where they had fled during the war, were unable to return; as for those who managed to return, they were considered illegal Pakistani immigrants. The properties and lands of all these refugees have been confiscatedThe Mujahids took arms only after all their protests and complaints brought no result. They demanded that all these injustice be corrected and that they be allowed to live as Burmese citizens according to laws and not be subject to arbitrariness and tyrany.343
Mujahids and the Government:
All the attempts to hold talks together failed.The rebels made rapid progress and banished the Arakanese villages that had been resettled. There were heavy fighting against army units and police patrols in the region, which for a long time had been under virtual seize. In June 1949, Government control was reduced to the port of Akyab only. Whereas the Mujahids were in possession of all of northern Arakan,and the other groups of Arakanese rebels had other districts in their control. Because of paucity of regular troops the Government formed a special Arakanese territorial force; they performed many acts of cruelty against the Muslims; and the rebels, for their part returned the full measure of acts of cruelty against the Arakanese 344 (the Magh).
In 1950 Prime Minister U Nu accompanied by Pakistani Ambassador Aurengzeb went to visit Maungdaw.In the wake of this visit, several changes in the personnel of government departments of the region took place. Senior officials and army units were replaced.345 [This means Pakistani Ambassador, Aurangazib, was taken there to assure him that Muslims there were treated fairly and equally, like other minorities of the country]. [BTP units who acted excessively against the Muslims, were replaced by Kachin Rifle, under Captain Kinzamon.]
But, relation between Burma and Pakistan in 1953, turned sour again. Accusations and counter accusations were appearing daily in Newspapers. .Mujahids in fact got free access to the other side, because it was impossible to guard effectively the long border.Perhaps Mujahids enjoyed some support from across the border and there were considerable numbers Arakanese Muslims settlement in Pakistan side of the border indeed
Moshe Yegar writes: In the years from 1951 thorough 1954 Government forces annually conducted large-scale campaigns against the Mujahids. But the Mujahids kept their grip tight on the region. In 1954 the Mujahids again increased their action and reinstated their superiority over the region. Arakanese Buddhist Monks proclaimed protest (Staged hunger strikes) in Rangoon against Mujahids.As a result of this pressure, the Government launched an extensive campaign in November (in the name of operation Monsoon). The major centers of the Mujahids were captured and several of their important leaders were killed. Since then, their threat had been vastly reduced. [During this, C. L. A. Rashid, a very popular leader of the Mujahids, who took his strong hold near Saing Daing waterfall, east of Buthidaung, was killed. He did not retreat despite warning of several times from the public as well as from military officers in the operation. He resisted from his camp for several days and lastly he was killed. His followers disintegrated and later joined with the other Mujahid groups.] Their ranks broke up into small units, which continued to loot and terrorize Muslims and Buddhist alike, especially in remote regions difficult to access. The Mujahid discontinued their organized fighting against the armed forces: some of them went in for smuggling rice from Arakan to Pakistan, where rice was scarce. This Mujahids levied various taxes on the public. The Burmese Government accused the Mmahids of encouraging illegal immigration into Arakan of thousands of Chittagonians from over populated East Pakistan. But Rohingyas leaders denied this accusation and claimed that not only was there no such immigration at all, but that the authorities invented the story so as to prevent the Rohingya refugees from returning from Pakistan, on the excuse that they are Chitiagonians.346
………. In early 1954 Major Qassim, the most widely known Mujahid leader was said to have been arrested in Pakistan. But he was not handed over to Burma. After his release from jail, Qassim remained in Chittagong where he runs a hotel to this very day. Qassim’s followers although scattered, set up a camp for their families on the Pakistani side of the border and continued their revolt by smuggling rice by plundering until July 4, 1961, when 290 Mujahids of the southern Maungdaw (led by one Ragi Ullah) surrendered at the hand of Brigadier Aung Gyi, then Deputy Commander in Chief of Burma. Then in 15 November 1961 another, but strongest group of Mujahid, numbenng a few hundreds surrendered. Thus Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung area became peaceful, free of insurgency. This second group of Mujahids was led by Abdul Rashid of Bogyi Chaung, Buthidaung. They also handed over two senior Mujahid leaders, Saleh Ahmed and Shafi, to the Government who were reluctant to surrender.
What Made Mujahid Surrender:
There are many factors connecting this issue. Of course the arrest of Major Qassim in East Pakistan caused disintegration in his followers. Yet there were other large and strong groups especially the one led by Abdul Rashid and Saleh. Almost all Mujahid leaders occasionally used to go into Pakistan; Pakistan can arrest them anytime. She did not do it. The arrest of Bo Qassim might be to maintain friendship with Burma, but the main reason was the complaint local public had lodged against his cruelties and uncivil activities.
The growing of military strength of Burma army is considered to be a reason that caused the surrender of Mujahids. Indeed there were yearly major operations, but they never could remove Qassim from his encampment on Minglagyi Mountain. Again there arose Mujahids in late 1960s, especially in Buthidaung and Rathedaung area.It was led by one Jaffar and they survived for years.
The principle factor that led to the surrender is “the lack of public support” to them. The public including their leadership, firmly believed the words of senior officials of May Yu frontier administration. The leaders and elders of Rohingya fully accepted the notion that May Yu will be a peaceful and developed place in the Union and their future is bright forever.Rohingya leaders, who tried for frontier administration, now, believed they would actually enjoy equal right, as the other races do. So they pressed the Mujahids to surrender.
At the same time Major Tin Oo was a very efficient administrator. He appointed Wazi Ullah as logistic officer.Wazi Ullah acted as a go between.Wazi Ullah was a very clever man, whom British military officer Major Anthony Irwin praised as he worked as an interpreter of him (the Major). Wazi Ullah succeeded in convincing the Mujahids that the Government took full guarantee of protection for the Muslims and the future of Arakan Muslims bright. Wazi Ullah conveyed the promises of Frontier Administration officials and the opinion of Rohingya leadership. Mujahids believing all these and seeing the decrease of public support day by day, decided to surrender group by group. Thus Rohingyas of Northern Arakan saw the surrender of Mujahids and admired the promises of Brigadier Aung Gyi, on behalf of the Government,
Did the Rohingya Public cooperate with the Government:
Believe it or not, according to my assessments Rohingyas are the most law-abiding people in Myanmar. They do not like people who take law in their own hands. They seek justice through judiciary. So the Muslims in Arakan have more cases in courts than other people. Government taxes and loans are always most completely paid by them. Official records of Myanmar will testify this fact.During the Second Worid War there were ample strayed arms in the area, but Rohingyas did not keep them in their possession only because they feared the law.
Here Mujahids in the eyes of Rohingyas are out laws. They did not admire them. But they had to pay the taxes levied upon them and shelter them because the public was armless. Some Muslim leaders cooperated with the Government whole-heartedly.These comprise Abdul Salam,headman of the town of Buthidaung, Abdul Hamid, headman of Seinyinbyin Village, Buthidaung and they received “Awards of President” (Thamada Su) from the Union President. There formed a police force mostly comprising local Muslims. The officers were Mr. Abul Qassim and Mir Ahmed. They fought brilliantly against Mujahids around mid 1950s, many Mujahids were captured alive and many others surrendered during this period. So Police Inspector Abul Qassim and P.S.0 U Mir Ahmed were conferred “Yethura” awards by the Government. Both are still alive in Maungdaw.
May Yu Frontier Administration:
May Yu frontier area comprises Maungdaw,Buthidaung and part of Rathedaung,where Rohingyas are in majority was announced by Prime Minister’s office in early March 1961, as one of its special administrative departments.The head of the Department was Colonel Saw Myint. Commissioner for May Yu frontier was Major Tin Oo and S. D. 0 was Captain Zeya Kyaw Htin, La Santu. Both were efficient administrators. The people respected and loved them for their fair and just administration. Still today elderly people talk about their fair mindedness and pray for them. In May Yu frontier four Sub Townships were created; They are Alelhan Kyaw, Kyein Chaung, Kyaung Daung and Zedi Byin. Frontier administrators communicated with the Mujahids through some special liaison officers and local elders. Believing the promises made by the administrators, the Mujahids surrendered group by group The leader of the last Mujahid movements, Qassim of Buthidaung was killed in an ambush by the military in 1961 near Buthidaung Town, in his native village, Ywama. Now peace and tranquility prevailed.Summers are noisy and busy with traditional games, sports, festival and Pwes. Rohingya youths were recruited for official jobs, vocational training courses for Rohingya Students had been arranged. Rohingya Language as a language of national indigenous race began to be broadcast from Burma Broadcasting Services, twice a week for ten minutes each commencing from 15th March 1961. Stories concerning Rohingyas true faith to the Union and their being Burmese Indigenous race took the front pages of Newspapers, Periodicals and Magazines including the “Tatmadaw Khityae Sasong”, a Military Journal issued under the control of Defense Ministry.
People were physically and mentally healthy in this period. Today people miss this period and wish to have the same, a peaceful and enjoyable life, and some expect that the present Military Government like their predecessors in earty 1960s, may create an atmosphere like that for Rohingyas in Arakan.
Rohingyas were allowed to form various social organizations.Thus there were Organizations such as Rohingya Jamiyatul Ulema, United Rohingya National League, Rohingya Youth Association, University Rohingya Student Union, which was on par with other naitonal races. Further, there were some organizations in the name of Arakanese Muslims.
The Issue of Rakhine State:
As we have said Rakhine people did not demand Statehood on the eve of independence. But a cry for an Autonomous State grew up in post independent period. The main political rivalry was between AFPFL and Rakhine Ra-Ta-Nya (Rakhine Regional Party). Muslim M. Ps. from the north joined with the M.Ps.of AFPFL in the south. This became a great obstacle in gaining the Statehood for Arakan. Here Roningyas had not their own political party. They contested in the Parliamentary Elections of 1947,1951and1956 as independent or as an affiliated group of AFPFL. Moshe Yegar says: Because of the deep seated suspicion existing, U Kyaw Min. leader of this (Rakhine Party), failed in all his attempts, after the 1951 elections to win over the Muslim Members of Parliament from Arakan State to form all Arakan faction within Parliament, with the promise of securing their rights as Muslims in the coming new State to be constituted.
In the Constituent Assembly, the Arakanese Muslims had always four or five representatives. From 1956 election these members were influenced by Sultan Mahmood of Akyab, who became Health Misnister in 1961 in U Nu’s Pa-Ta-Sa Cabinet. Sultan Mahmood was clever and influential enough to monopolize the political life of Muslims in Arakan.
There had been many commissions formed to study the case of granting Arakan Statehood. These are: Rees William’s Commission in 1947, U Nyo Tun’s Commission in 1948, Sir Ba Oo Commission in 1948, Kelly’s Commission in 1950. No Commission yield up any result.
But when AFPFL was divided into two factions in 1959, the prospect of achieving Statehood became brighter. Both factions wanted the support of Arakanese M. Ps. After winning 1960 election, U Nu’s Pa-Ta-Sa Government again appointed an Inquiry Commission to study the affairs of Arakan State. This time Muslim opinions differed. Some objected the idea of Statehood for whole Arakan and propose to exclude Northern Arakan and keep it “under central Government.” Some supported the Statehood provided full safeguard for Muslims in the State are guaranteed.347 The second version of Statehood was proposed by the Organization of Arakanese Muslims affiliated to Sultan Mahmood, then a Parliamentarian from a constituency of Buthidaung. They demanded proportional quotas in official posts, which the Rakhine people were not ready to share.
Arakan State did not come into existence yet. On the 1st May 1961, the province of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and the Western Portion of Rathedaung was set up into May Yu Frontier Administration. It was under Frontier Administration Department in Prime Minister’s office and controlled by military officials. It was not autonomy for the region and was out of the jurisdiction of Arakan Division. This new arrangement earned the support of Rohingya leaders, especially as the new military administration succeeded in putting down the rebellion and bringing order and security to the region.
At the beginning of 1962, the Government prepared a draft law for the establishment of the”State” of Arakan and in accordance with the Muslims demand, excluded the May Yu District.The military revolution took place on March 2, 1962. The new Government cancelled the plan to grant Arakan the status of State but the May Yu district remained subject to the special administration that had been set up for it.348
Later, from 1st February 1964, the May Yu District was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs.The facilities Rohingyas enjoyed during military rule began to decrease gradually. BSPP (Burmese Socialist Program Party), the only party the Revolutionary Governmeni had formed and allowed to grasp the whole life of the area. Rohingya, except a few axe-handle-like persons, are not allowed membership in the BSPP Party. This BSPP had played one-sided game, to exploit and spoil the Rohingya community, until it was dissolved in 1988.
Surprise Check on Muslim Villages:
Though Rohingyas or Muslims were formally accepted as nationals, theic were strict checks on their movements. Immigration officials deliberately harassed them to get bribe money.Some times there were check operations on ground of suspected illegal immigrants. Sometimes these operations caught people and arbitrarily jailed them. Some of these died in Insein Jail, because they were not accepted by Pakistan and some had to seek self-deportation only after independence of Bangladesh. Most interesting is, in one case the Supreme Court set aside orders of deportation against a group of Arakanese Muslims rounded up by Immigration authorities in 1959 in a drive against illegal immigrants, ruling that in a country like Burma with so many minority groups there might be people who do not speak Burmese and whose customs were different from the Burmese, but who nevertheless were Citizens (The Guardian Newspaper, October 27, 1960).
ARAKAN UNDER MILITARY RULE
On March 2, 1962, General Me Win seized power in a coup, abolished the constitution and dissolved the Parliament. Now all power of the State rested in his Revolutionary Council. In February 1963, this regime nationalized all banks and a few weeks later all businesses save very little retail selling ones. The special administration of May Yu region was abolished and was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs from February 1964.
Rohingya’s social and religious associations were not permitted in his new process of re-registration. Rohingya language broadcasting program as a national race or as an ettinic language, from BBS (Burma Broadcasting Service) was cancelled from October 30, 1965. Unscrupulous elements of Rakhine people were given a free hand in dealing with Rohingyas. Disgracing and harassing to Rohingya is allowed to do freely. Hooliganism and gang looting became a routine activity in towns; state mechanism of forced transmigration or transportation was introduced. Rohingya households were forcibly deported to places where they originally got the NRCs (National Registration Cards).Discriminations were found in public jobs.Local Rohingya servicemen were transfared to remote places or to Inner Burma. Opportunity for new public jobs became very rare. Harassment on travel, especially on checkpoints, Jetties and Airports became very harsh. Most NRCs, on checkpoints were seized and torn down.
Many Rohingya Villages from Minbya, Mrauk-U, and Kyauktaw were forcibly shifted wholesale to Maungdaw and Buthidaung area.These villagers left everything behind and faced a lot of hardships in their new places. Some young men of these expellees had made secret contact with ex-Mujahids, and therein an underground-armed movement restarted from about late 1968. In this situation some educated persons were organized by one Jaffar (B.A) of Buthidaung, and crossed to the other side of the border with his followers. Since then, this group had been doing some anti-State propaganda against the Burmese Government. During liberation war of Bangladesh, Jaffar (B.A.) came with some of his supporters into Arakan and joined there with the armed group led by another Jaffar, also known as Jaffar Thani. They got some advanced arms from war-wrecked Bangladesh. Arms were very plenty in that period.Even Party Unit (BSPP) of Maungdaw had collected a lot of modern firearms, for that reason,Unit Chairman Captain U Kyaw was later taken action.
This time efforts were made to get military co-ordinations between the Rohingya armed groups and the Rakhine armed groups in inner Arakan. Armed group led by Bo Kra HIa Aung and Kyaw Zan Ri’s Communist Branch of Arakan are said to have gained some agreements of understanding with the group led by Jaffar (B.A.).
The insurgent group of Jaffar (B.A.) got hold of the area for about three years. This group, too, failed to gain the support of local people. When a major operation in 1973 was launched against them, they did not resist it and gradually fled into Bangladesh. Some say the arms were surrendered to the Bangladesh Government. From then on there has been no insurgency in May Yu region until now. But, Jaffar (B. A) and other persons organized some anti-State Organizations in the names of RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization) and RPF(Rohingya Patriotic Front) in foreign land. They have been carrying only some propaganda works abroad. The Rakhine insurgent groups led by Bo Kra HIa Aung, U Kyaw Zan Ri (Red Flag Branch) and other Communist Branches, too, surrendered in 1980s. Thus Arakan as a whole became peaceful and devoid of insurgency. The last group roamed around the border area also surrendered in 1999 and they were settled down in Northern Maungdaw.
Under 1974 constitution, Arakan became a State. Chairman of Arakan State Council was Commodore U Kyaw Maung, who married a daughter of Kyaw Mra Aung Chaudhary of Teknaf. Bangladesh. There were a lot of Bangladeshi (Formerly East Pakistani) persons serving in various departments of Myanmar as they were regarded as nationals by Sanguine. Arakan State had conspired a tragedy against the Rohingyas. Then a Pyithu Luttaw (Parliament) Member from Buthidaung Constituency, U HIa Kyaw Aung submitted a report in Pyithu Luttaw session that there are seventy thousand illegal immigrants in Buthidaung alone. Thus the Government had introduced an operation (Operation Dragon King) in February 1978. It started on February 13th from Akyab. Villages were surrounded up at night. Thousands of Rohingyas from surrounding villages were herded to an empty warehouse of Agricultural Department and many were kept in the compound under bare roof. Next day roars and agitations broke out there. Armed personnel tried to calm down the agitators and being unable to control the mob, they fired on the mob. Two Muslims were killed and a lot many were injured. The group rounded up the day before ran away; they were not chased and (or) rearrested. But later some Muslim elders were arrested and jailed on the charges of complicities in this agitation of escapees. The operation again started in Buthidaung on 16th March 1978. There, too, were indiscriminate arrests under various clauses of immigration acts. People were jailed through summary trials in mobile courts. A huge temporary jail adjacent to Buthidaung Town was built, which actually became a means of terror for public. Thus people felt, absconding from the operation would be better than facing jail term. Parents became very much anxious about their young unmarried daughters. Thus people began to flee into Bangladesh. First Bangladesh blocked the exodus. But later seeing some absconders being killed and injured at Taung Bru police station, Bangladesh allowed them to cross the border. About two hundred thousands were sheltered in camps along the border.First Burma denied them to be Burmese citizens or residents. Foreign diplomats were invited there in the first week of May and shown around the area, the diplomats understood the cause and effects of the operation.
But, later Burma and Bangladesh got understanding through reciprocal visits of missions, and an agreement of repatriation was signed on 7th July 1978.The refugees were being repatriated where the UNHCR came to help the refugees on humanitarian ground. The refugees had been repatriated and most of them were resettled in their original places. This refugee crisis drew the attention of the world. Since then many researchers have been writing on Rohingya problem.
Rohingyas got five seats in 1990 SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) sponsored election. For reasons known to SLORC, restriction on Rohingya’s movement was enforced from late 1991. Permanent military cantonment and barracks were being constructed for dozens of military battalions, in Buthidaung Town alone.349 Order of porter and ration reached to a village from various army and police units at the same day Porters, who were kept in the camps for some continuous days got infection of cerebral malaria and died within days. Insulting and humiliating to Muslims irrespective of their social status grew day by day. Villages were removed and agricultural lands were confiscated for military installations and so called new establishment of Rakhine model villages. These all led to second exodus of people to Bangladesh in early 1992. This time, too, more than two hundred thousand Rohingyas, who for their poorness and illiteracy, some people tried to assume to be recent Bangladeshi entrants, streamed into Bangladesh and were sheltered in many refugee camps temporarily built for them along the border. This time, too, Burmese Government first said that no Burmese nationals fled to Bangladesh. Next she said that so called refugees were no more than those who returned to their natives.But in mid 1993 (perhaps in August) an agreement to repatriate the refugees was reached between Myanmar Government and the UNHCR High Commissioner in Geneva. Repartriation process began in late 1993. Now all refugees save a few thousand had been repatriated. UNHCR and many other NGOs are presently contributing helps to the refugees. UNHCR has been trying to reintegrate the refugees in the society. Funther UNHCR has been maneuvering for the issuance of National Identity Cards to the returnees as well as to the local Rohingyas in Arakan. So called National Scrutiny Cards under U Ne Win’s 1982 Cili/rnship Act were until now not issued to any Rohingyas, UNHCR efforts in this regard, so far is not successful yet.
Jaffar (B. A.) died in 1986 in Chitlagong. His associates and remnants of former Mujahid who fled into Bangladesh reorganized themselves but did not get unity, and became two separate groups, ARIF and RSO. ARIF was headed by Mr. Noor Islam: a LLB graduate from Rangoon University and RSO was headed firstly by Saiful Islam and later by Mohammed Yunus, a medical doctor, graduated from Institute of Medicine, Yangon. Neither group has any activity inside Burma save an excursion by RSO in May 1994, which coincide with a cyclone on 27th May, and met still retaliation from the Government. Most of the infiltrators were killed and the rest fled away.
In the uprising of 1988, (General) U Ne Win resigned and first U Sein Lwin became the head of the State. Within a short period the power was handed over to Dr. Maung Maung. Both were unable to put down the uprising. Law and Order was deteriorating day by day. Thus on 18th September 1988 the Army headed by General Saw Maung took power of the State. The army in the name of State Law and Order Restoration Council imposed Martial Law and gradually succeeded in suppressing the uprising.
SLORC Government sponsored a Parliamentary election on 27th of May 1990. National League for Democracy (NLD) came victorious with 82% turnout. Arakan State has 26 seats. Arakan League for Democracy won 11 seats. Among the rest, 9 seats won by NLD, 4 seats by NDPH,350 one seat by Mro-Khami Party and last one by Kaman Party, respectively.
LEGAL NEXUS BETWEEN ROHINGYA AND THE STATE
It is difficult for general concern to understand the legal status of Rohingya. Majority does not know the Geo-Political and historical background of Arakan. To generat Burmese; a Burmese is a Buddhist.If a pure Burmese happeies to be a Muslim, he is regarded as a Kalah of a foreigner. Here, Rohingyas are Muslims, their complexions are different from general Burmese, so they are generally seen as foreigner of descendants of foreigners which means Rohingyas are regarded as non- nations.
However, Bokyoke Aung San, father of the nation and leaders of post independence period studied the affairs of all minorities in the nation and generously accepted Rohingyas as an indigenous race of Burma at the same par with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon and Rakhine.
In early British census Rohingya, Karman, Myedu and Chitlagonians or Bengalis were all censured under the column of Muslims. Sometimes Alakanese Muslims were categorized as Sheikhs and sometimes they were put under the column of Indian Muslims. Arakanese Muslims protested not to mix them with foreign Muslims. So in 1921 census only some Rakhine speaking Muslims were shown under separate column as Arakan Mohammedan. Then again in 1931 census Myedu and Kaman only were separately listed, whence the Rohingya still remained under general Muslim headline. Yet Rohingyas are not foreigners in independent Burma. Grounds for this claim are:
- In 1864 Foreigner Act was enacted and again it was amended as Foreigner Registration Act in 1940 and then came out Registration of Foreigners Rule in 1948. But Rohingyas, who settled in Arakan Village-wise, were not subjected to registration as foreigners.
- In 91 department administrations of late colonial period British election law had provision for the representation of Indians in Burma. Rohingyas from north Arakan were allowed to represent as Burmese, but not as Indians.Their representative U Pho Khaing and U Gani Marakan had competed not as Indian, but as Burman. U Aung Tun Khaing and U Shwe Tha were other contesters, who were Rakhmes.
- Further in the Constituent Assembly of Bokyoke Aung San, Sultan Ahmed from Maungdaw, Abdul Gaffar from Buthidaung and U Pho Khaing (a) Nasir Uddin from Akyab got elected as Burmese citizen representatives. The most interesting thing is on the very day of Bokyoke Aung San and his colleague’s martyrdom, there was an official appointment at noon with these Arakan State Representatives.351
- Under 1947 Burma Immigration (Emergency Provision) Act, no foreigner can enter the Union of Burma without any lmmigration Permit issued by the controller or by any official authorized to issue such permits or a valid Passport duly Visaed or endorsed by or on behalf of the President of the Union [Here a foreigner can enter secretly to Arakan bul it is not easy for him to take permanent settlement in the midst of a functioning mechanism of Government.]
- Here again, there are the Immigration (Detention) Rules of 1951,in Burma.Under this rule any foreigner found entered the country illegally can be deported. There were instances of annulling deportation orders by Chief Court of Burma, in the case of some Arakan Muslims,352 who were arrested and sentenced for some years on conditions of deporting after the jail term.
- There is the Union Constitution of 1947. Section 11 of this Constitution expressed: any of the indigenous races of the Burma means the Arakanese, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, (Kayah), Mon or Shan races and such racial groups as has settled in any of the territories included within the Union as their permanent home for a period anterior to 1823 A.D. (1185 B.E.). [Thus Rohingyas whose residency in Arakan rooted so many centuries back, fall under this category of the indigenous race].
- The Union Citizenship Act of 1948:
Citizenship is a right to have rights. Section 3 (1) of this Act stipulates again Section 11 of the Constitution. Section 4 (2) reads: any person descended from ancestors, who for two generations at least have all made any of the territories included within the Union their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any of such territories shall be deemed to be a citizen of Union. [If Rohingyas were not recognized as indigenous race as said above in Article 11 of the Constitution, they at least enjoyed citizenship under this Section of Citizenship Acts. Many Rohingyas in post independence period won the charges against them by immigration in Court, by showing clearance under this Section].
- Issuance of National Registration Certificate:
This is the most authentic document concerning Rohingya’s citizenship. In parallel with the Union Citizenship Act, the Residents of Burma Registration Act was enacted in 1949, followed by its executing Rules in 1951. Accordingly, all people residing in Myanmar were required to register either as residents or foreigners. To these two categories corresponded two novel documents, National Registration Cards (NRCs) and Foreigners Registration Certificate (FRCs) (under 1864 Foreigners Act and then amended in 1940 as Foreigners Registration Act), for residents and foreigners respectively.NRCs were issued to all residents(mainly citizens) whilst registered foreigners(under Foreigners Registration Act and Rule of 1948)were issued FRCs.There was no third category of people in Burma, then. As a result, NRCs were used as a proof of nationality or citizenship.
Here Burma Residents Registration Rules of 1951. Section 33, stipulates, what so ever this Rule cannot be applied to foieigners except the case in Section 29 and 31.
Section 33 Article; A say Foreigners who were registered under 1940, Foreigners Registration Act should be accepted as a registered under this rule, and their FRCs should be regarded as if issued undei this rule.
Note: Section 29, stipulates to carry the registration cards in case of traveling outside residing town.
Section 31, stipulates, in case of failure to abide by this rule, one is subject to face to legal action under Section 6 Article 2 of Bunna Resident Registration Act.
In practice, too,the NRC holders had the right to possess immoveable properties,the right to public jobs,insurance,social security and professional educations.Rohigyas have been enjoying all these rights since independence up to 1990.
The most noteworthy thing is that the first town in the Union to issue this NRC in 1952 was Maungdaw. People in that area did not approach to immigration and Registration offices, individually or in groups to obtain the document in illegal way. But the official under special project got to the grass root villages and issued the Cards to the villagers. Then how can we say, people obtained NRCs by bribing the local officials. So the notion that Rohingyas in Arakan acquired NRCs by hand is not reasonable at all.
All NRC issued in earlier years bear no additional remarks. A remark stating, “holding this certificate shall not be considered as a conclusive proof of as to citizenship” was sealed later on NRCs. The reason behind this extra remark sealed later is best known to the authorities.Perhaps one of the objectives of 1978, Dragon King Operation was to stamp the above remark on all NRCs.
- Issuance of Naiional Passports:
Since independence, Muslim from Arakan States obtained National Passports to travel abroad. In the Iast few decades, pilgtims lo Makkah, frorn Rakhine State, got Passports of the Union of Bunna, too. Under international law, the possession of such document is a proof of nationality.
- Eligibility to Elect and to he Elected:
In international laws,only citizens can compete in national elections.Burmese Constitution and Election Laws piohibit foreigners fiom the right to elect and to be elected. The criterion to run for election is not only that the candidate is a full citizen but also both of his parents must be citizens too.353
Noteworthy thing here is, there were several general elections of Pyithu Hluttaw from 1946 to 1990’s SLORC sponsored election. In all these elections Rohingyas of Arakan or Muslims of Arakan enjoyed both rights, to elect and to be elected.
Here is a List of MPs Period Wise;
Year Position Name of Candidate Area Reprsented
1936 M. G. C. Mr.Gani Marakan Buthidaung+Maungdaw
1946 M. L. C. U Pho Khaing (a) Akyab West
M. L. C. Mr. Sultan Ahmed Maungdaw
M. L. C. Mr. Abdul Gaffar Buthidaung
1951 M. P. Mr. Abdul Gaffar Buthidaung North
M. P. Mr. Abdul Bashar Buthidaung South
M. P. Mr. Sultan Ahmed Maungdaw North
M. P. Daw Aye Nyunt (a) Maungdaw South
1956 M. P. Mr. Ezar Meah Buthidaung North
M. P. Mr. Sultan Mahmood Buthidaung North (By-election)
M. P. Mr. Abul Bashar Buthdaung South
M. P. Mr. Sullan Ahmed Maungdaw North
M. P. Mr. Abul Khair Maungdaw South
M. P. Mr. Abdul Gaffar Both Maungdaw and Buthidaung
1960 M. P. Mr. Abul Bashar Buthdaung South
M. P. Mr. Sultan Mahmood Buthidaung North
M. P. Mr. Abul Khair Maungdaw South
M. P. Mr. Rashid Maungdaw North
M. P. M. A. Subhan Both Maungdaw and Buthidaung
Ma-Sa-La Period (BSPP)
Year Designation Name of Candidate Region Represented
1974 Hluttaw Member Dr. A. Rahim Maungdaw
Hluttaw Member Mr. Abul Hussein Buthidaung
1978 Hlttaw Member Mr.Abdul Hai (a) Maungdaw
U Tun Aung Kyaw
Some others: etc;-
SLORC Sponsored Elections
1990 Hluttaw Member Mr. Fazal Ahmed Maungdaw South
U Chit Lwin (a)Ibrahim Maungdaw North
U Tin Maung (a) Buthidaung South
U Kyaw Min (a) Buthidaung North
U Shwe Yat Akyab
During the Ma-Sa-La period, in all level of election: Village Tracts, Townships, and State or Division Councils: Rohingyas got the right to represent there. In the last Pa-Ta-Sa Cabinet of U Nu,Health Minister was Mr. Sultan Mahmood, M. P., from Buthidaung North.
To sum up, until recently Rohingyas enjoyed full citizenship rights. So they naturally are Burmese citizens. By 1982 Citizenship Law too, they are citizens also, because Article 6 of this law stipulates as one who is a citizen at the commencement of this law is also a citizen. Albitrarily depriving one’s citizenship or degrading one’s citizenship status, I hope, is contrary to international laws and norms. The reason behind denial is self-interpretation of 1982 citizenship law. They say Rohingya is not in 135 ethnic groups. Ma-Sa-La had designated lately. Though Rohingyas residency in Myanmar might be for centuries, yet they have to apply for naturalized or associate citizenship.Gaining of this degraded status is also subject to the approval of highest authority.
Presently TRCs or White Cards as it is called, Temporary Registration Cards have been issued to Rohingyas in North Arakan. UNHCR official say according to the explanation of Department of Immigration, TRCs can be regarded as a step towards granting citizenship to Rakhine Muslims.354 According to Burma Resident Registration Rule Section 13, a-1, TRC is a substitute for NRC for a temporary reason.
After all, UNHCR in its assessment of the situation, remarks, “one would be incorrect in asserting that because there exists no formal citizenship nexus between Rakhine Muslims and Myanmar Naing Ngan,this population is living in a legal limbo.In fact there exist a wide series of genuine affective links between the two above mentioned. Historically the national nexus between the Rohingya and Rakhine kingdom was following from a higher legal political nexus, i.e. the nominal vassalage of the Rakhine King to Sultan of Gaur, which guaranteed Muslim subjects to be treated on equal footing with the Rakhine Buddhist.355
- Degrading of Nationality Status:
Despite profound rationale and historical as well as legal proofs, Rohingyas today are barred from gaining Citizenship Scrutiny Cards. Their nationality status is made a subject of suspicion. Many happened to incline to believing the fabricated or distorted stories concerning Rohingyas. But, the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 in its Article No. 15 says; everyones has the right to a nationality, none shall be arbiharity deprived of his nationality, and no one be denied the right to change the nationalty.
As we have seen in early chapter Rohingyas had been full-fledged citizens of Myanmar, through out its history up to 1990 SLORC sponsored Parliamentary election.So losing this status pertains to theuncler of rights Universally considered jus cogens, which may not to be limited, curtained or infringed for any reason of national emergency, national security, sovereignty or national unity. As to the rights expressed in Article 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there can be no derogation as far as denationalization is concerned.
According to Children Rights Convention, every child has a right to citizenship Myanmar is a party to this Convention. She signed and ratified it. Myanmar had enacted Myanmar Children Law; in 1993 Section 10 of the said Law stipulates that every child shall have the right to citizenship in accordance with statuary language of existing laws. Since Myanmar is a party to the (Children) Convention, she is obliged under Article 7, to afford nationality to every child born on its territory, in particular when the child would otherwise be stateless. The rigorous nature of the restrictions imposed on NRC, TRC holders of Arakan leaves little doubts that the concerned authorities seek to relegate such persons into positions of inferiority partcutarly not only in the sphere of political affairs but also in the economic realm.356
UNHCR annual report remarks, Myanmar and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on November 05,1993, Article 5 of that MOU Says returnees will enjoy the same freedom of movement as all other nationalities in Rakhine State……… But the second part of the sentence, “in conformity with existing laws”………., bring us to the earth. What these laws are? This is the legal basis for movement restrictions that currently applied in Northern Rakhine State. These regulations are:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>Section 10 of the Foreigners Registration Act of 1940, which stipulates that foreign residents in Myanmar have to request a license to leave their place of residence; and
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>Section 11 of the above act of 1940, which elucidates, in this context, every such license shall state the name of the person to whom the license is granted, the nation to which he belongs, the district or districts through which he is authorized to pass or the limit within which he is authorized to travel, and the period of travel and so on
It has been well noticed that improving the legal status of Muslims in this region is the first step towards social and economic development. Culturally, socially or simply humanely the consequences of a weakened legal status of Muslims population in north Arakan State are many. They touch every realm of life.357 It should be tackled in a fair way, without neglecting the historical and legal background of this population of Arakan.
SUCCESSIVE BURMESE GOVERNMENTS AND ROHINGYA
Do the Rohingya have the right to be Burmese citizens? Do they fall in the norm and from of Burmese indigenous category? It is a question most people raise at least in their mind. To be straight to the point, Burma has neither during the reign of Burmese kings nor during the period of British rule, any specific legal corpus slipulating the rights and duties of Burmese: it neither had any law concerning the issuance of identity documents whatsoever. So when we speak of citizenship or national race, we have to start from the laws. [Here all laws enacted in Burma could not be interpreted to satisfy the need and wish of minorities.]
Burmese laws concerning citizenship are neither jus sanguini nor jus soli, it is a mixture of both. So we cannot say to be Burmese citizen, one should be a Biiddhist or from so designated group or tiibe. Since Bunna is a muti-racial country, peoples of different iacial and cultural background live here. So all these peoples should be accommodated in the family of national races; For example, in India, Nagas in east are ethnically and culturally very much different from the Malwaris in the west. Yet all have the same status and equal rights.
Taking into consideration these points, all previous Governments in Burma, treated Rohingyas as Burmese nationals. Though there had been some occasional discrimination, on the whole Rohingyas were provided with full citizenship rights.
Some major proofs of recognizing Rohingya as citizens, by successive Government are as follows:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>British first ruled Burma under the Governor of India. Next there was a Governor for Burma.Then in late colonial period there was a Governor’s Council, represented by all racial groups including Indian and European residents in Burma. Where Indian population reached the quota prescribed in the Council’s regulation, there was an Indian Constituency. Thus Akyab, where was a vast Indian populace, got an Indian Constituency for the Governor’s Council.There was a Nationality Constituency too. All other Constituencies in Arakan were nationals. Thus the representative elected from Maungdaw, Buthidaung was a National Representative. Mr. Gani Marakan of Akyab represented Maiingdaw and Buthidaung in 1936 election. The competitors of that period with Gani Marakan were U Shwe Tha and U Aung Tun Khaing both of who were Rakhines. A Rakhine candidate never tried to be a representative of foreigners. This is a proof that Muslims from northern Arakan were regarded as Burmese nationals, even in British period.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>In the legislative, Hluttaw of Byoke Aung San, which had drawn first Burmese Constitution, Rohingyas too, got the chance to represent, which indicates. Bokyoke Aung San, father of our independence, accepted Rohingya as Burman. Their being Kalahs (Muslims) did not infriuge in their being Burmese citizen. M.L.Cs. of that Hlutttaw were U Sultan Ahmed from Maumidaw. U Abdul Gaffar from Buthidaung and U Pho Khaing (a) Nasir Uddin from Akyab West.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>In 1950, Prime Minister U Nu took along with him Ihe Ambassador of Pakistan, Mr. Aureng Zeb, to Maungdaw and Buthidaung, where he (the Prime Minister) arranged mass public meetings and assured the Ambassador as well as the local public that Burma regard these people as genuine Burmese citizens and henceforth no discrimination will ever occur in this area.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>4. <!–[endif]–>We have,Burma Residence Registration Act of 1949, under which NRCs were issued only to Burmese citizens.The most notable thing is Maungdaw was the first town in the Union to issue the NRCs. The teams of Immigration and Manpower or National Registration Department got down to the grassroots villages to register and issue these NRCs. No one came to the town office to obtain that NRCs by fraud or bribe. According to the Rules of said Acts, foreigners can not be issued NRCs. So having NRCs is a proof of Rohingyas 358 being Burmese citizens.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>5. <!–[endif]–>U Nu, the Union Prime Minister, on the radio speech relayed from BBS (Burma Broadcasting Service) on 25th September 1954 at 8:00 PM explained that the people living in Maungdaw and Buthidaung regions are our national brethren.They are called Rohingyas.359
<!–[if !supportLists]–>6. <!–[endif]–>Both Prime Minister U Nu and then Defense Minister U Ba Swe in November 03, 04 1959 made public speeches to the mass public gatherings in Maungdaw and Buthidaung. There, they assured the public that the government was clean and clear in regard of Rohingya’s Burmese citizenship. They told Rohingyas were at the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>7. <!–[endif]–>A notification is issued on November 20, 1961 by Frontier Administration Department, under Prime Minister’s office designated May Yu Frontier Area as a Rohingya majority region and emphasized that Frontier Administration was introduced only to uplift the socio-economic life of these people.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>8. <!–[endif]–>Rohingya language was relayed from BBS for ten minutes two times per week in its indigenous races’ broadcasting program, from 15 May 1961 to 30 October 1965.360
<!–[if !supportLists]–>9. <!–[endif]–>“Sarpay Beikman” is a Government controlled publishing house. Government censored well its publications, especially the volumes of Myanmar Encyclopedia. In Myanmar Encyclopedia Vol. 9. 1964, on page 89, the historic narration was given in detail concerning Rohingya.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>10. <!–[endif]–>Khityae Sasaung. a bulletin of Defense Ministry, in its Volume number 12, at 6 and 9 dated 18/7/61 and 8/8/61 respectively, carried long stories concerning Rohingya. It described northern Arakan, a place of Rohingya majority where some minorities, Khami, Mru, Dainet and Rakhine, too.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>11. <!–[endif]–>The groups of Mujahids, one on 8/7/61 and the other on 15/11/61, surrendered. Both surrendering ceremonies were chaired by then Brigadier Aung Gyi, Deputy Chief of Staff.The speeches he made on those occasions were produced in a booklet, named “Future of May Yu”.These booklets are in the hands of many people today. Summarizing his speeches, we get the following points.
He said, “The people in this district (May Yu) are Ruhingya. On the other side of the border, there are Muslims too. They are Pakistanis. Muslims in Arakan side are Rohingyas. Some ethnic people live on the both sides of the border, not only in this border, but also in our borders with India, China and Thailand. For example Lisu, Eikaw, Lawa live in Kachin State where as then main clans are in China. In the same way we have Shan in Burma, whereas in China there are Tain Shans too. There are Mon, Karen, Malays in Burma as well as in Thailand. On the Indian border, there are Chin, Lishaw and Naga. These people settled down on Indian side of the border as well. So, frankly speaking people living in this May Yu region are our national brothers, and one of our national minorities. So it we had any wrongs in the past, forget them. From today, you all are our Union citizens. Feel yourself as our family members, not strangers.” He further explained many other things.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>12. <!–[endif]–>High School Geography of Ma-Sa-La period indicates in a map of Burma, the scattering of national peoples, where northern Arakan is spotted as a region of Rohingya settlements.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>13. <!–[endif]–>Traditionally, Union Day celebrations on 12thof February have been yearly celebrated in a grandeur manner, under the sponsorship of the Government Representatives of Union races have been invited as State Guests, there Rohingya representatives too were invited in 1960 and 1961 Union Day Celebrations. Next a cultural exhibition and a sport race, were allowed to be shown and pertermed in Theinbyu Sport Ground, Yangon, on 1960 Union Day.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>14. <!–[endif]–>The last and most important reference of Rohingya’s historically in the book “Sasana Ronwa Htunzepho” published by SLORC Government in 1997. In its chapter of “Islam” the book pointed out that Islam spread in Arakan since 8th century A. D. It was highly rooted there, and from there it futher spread into inner Burma.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>15. <!–[endif]–>In Rangoon University, there were Ethnic Student Associations. Rohingyas also got registration of their Association in 1959 – 1960 and 1960 -1961 academic years. Registration Numbers are: 113/59 Dec 13 1959 and Rg 7/60 Sep 17, 1960 respectively.
These all are some proofs for those who suspects Rohingyas in their being genuine citizens of Burma. Still some may say Ihese allare not the decree, notification declaration or decision of the highest organ of the Slate. No such documentations ever appeared in Burma in regards of so-called 135 indigenous peoples of Burma (save the original eight ethnic races whose names were mentioned in Burmese Constitutions). If the rest of all can be indigenous races without any decree or notification, why not Rohingyas, too?
THE SURVEY OF UNHCR
In the aftermath of 1992 refugee problem, many NGOs entered Arakan and have been working there. Especially refugees have been repatriated under UNHCR’s supervision. Only a few thousand refugees remained in Bangladesh, whose case is under negotiation between Myanmar and Bangladesh. UNHCR has its yearly reports. Further some of its senior officials have compiled some thesis concerning the Rohingyas. These comprise “a nation within a nation”, by A Joseph: “Analysis of the livelihood situation of the Muslim population in Northern Arakan State”, by Andersen. “A brief account on the history of Muslim population in Arakan” by P. Nicolas.
Their study seemed to be many folds.Their thesiste contain various viewpoints: The official version, the Rakhine version and the version of Rohingya themselves…………. According to UNHCR’s documents an increasing number of Rakhine Muslims have shown willingness to acquire formal citizenship. It said recent survey indicated 70 to 80% interviewees declare that holding Myanmar citizenship is first on their list of priorities. Further 60 to 90% declare that they consider themselves as nationals of Myanmar 361 ………….. According to UNHCR the Rakhine version is: The indigenous races of Myanmar have no Muslim religion.362 Finally the official (SLORC and SPDC Governments) version in regard of Rohingya is: The so-called Rohingyas never belonged to the national races or national racial groups of Myanmar. The Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar historically, politically or legally nor do they in any way represent any segment of the population in Myanmar including those professing the Islamic faith. The so-called Rohingya is an invention of insurgent terrorist organization like Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) and Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF). Both organizations are alien to Myanmar in form and content and are largely supported from abroad.363 Again Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Ohn Gyaw, in 1992 opined: “Persons, who could not produce an Identity Card, should have a problem”. He further said “It is a rubbish thing that people have left Myanmar: These people who are in the refugee camps in Bangladesh are perhaps from Decca, but not one single person has left Myanmar” This reflects the official position concerning the Rohingyas and Rohingya refugees. Myanmar Government is ready to register or issue Registration Cards to Rohingyas, but reluctant to issue them either NRCs or so-called Citizen Scrutiny Cards.364 But their words have no consistency and later they accepted the refugees. UNHCR survey in 1998 reflects the perception, sense of belonging. It says their interviewees claim to be Burmese nationals.One of the returnees says. “Now I feel they are wrong in saying that we are foreigners”.365
Here in these connections UNHCR official, observed as follows: One would be incorrect in asserting that, because there exist no formal citizenship nexus between Rakhine Muslim and the Myanrnar, this population is living in a state of legal limbo. In facts there exist a wide series of genuine effective links between the two above mentioned. To name a few:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>The mere fact that returnees revealed themselves of Myanmar National protection is an unmistakable nexus and decidedly a peisuasive one.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>The fact that Rakhine Muslims have enjoyed habitual residence rights for generations and continue to do so
<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>Formal and informal taxes are paid to the local authorities
<!–[if !supportLists]–>4. <!–[endif]–>Participation for social security system for those Rakhine Muslims who were working (in Public Departments)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>5. <!–[endif]–>Massive participation in the nation wide election of 1990, a right normally reserved for citizens
<!–[if !supportLists]–>6. <!–[endif]–>Some legal documents: the author had a chance to review and testify that Rakhine Muslims are nationals of the Union of Myanmar.366
UNHCR annual protection report said that the Rakhine Muslims are not stateless persons per se. Since they were granted some residency right on the territory of Myanmar Naing Gnan.The report further said, the contention that Rakhine Muslims presently residing Arakan Slate are, all descendants from illegal immigrants who entered Burma in the past decades because of the irresistible thrust of over population in Bangladesh and search for “greener Pasteur” is deemed incorrect, specially in view of the fact that Muslim settlements in this area can be traced back to 1430 A.D.367 Albeit not being formally recognized as citizens, Rakhine Muslims enjoy most of the historical, cultural and leyal characteristics of Myanmar nationals. Historically the national nexus between Rohingya and the Rakhine Kingdom was flowing from a higher legal and political nexus i.e. the nominal vassalage of the Rakhine Kingdom to Sultan of Gaur, which granted Muslim subjects to be treated on an equal footing with Rakhine Bhuddists.368 UNHCR also remarks that there is a formal link between their NRCs and citizenship.
UNHCR further remarks: As outlined above, the 1982 Citizenship Law is based on an official position, which encourages amalgams between immigrants and old settlers. In that context, mutual respect is strongly discouraged in day-to-day interactions between communities……… Practically, any Muslim looking person, or one with Muslim name, is a suspect of being an intruder, or even a member of insurgent groups. Being not a citizen, the average Muslim is subject to all sorts of frustiations particularly at checkpoints, being called “Kalah”.
Yet some expressed doubt that there might be some illegal immigrants of recent decades. The truth is that life in Arakan for a Muslim is very restricted and humiliating. It is unimaginable that Bangladeshi would enter into this antayonistic atmosphere. In contrast thousands of Rohingyas gradually have been leaving Arakan for permanent settlement in other Muslim countries since Burmese independence. Further in recent decades there, proper Government mechanism has been functioning well. It is unthinkable for a foreigner to settle there and acquire residency documents.
Whatsoever, the final assessment of UNHCR is a breath of relief for Rohingyas? It says first priority should be given to the issue of nationality for, without nationality not only Rakhine State development is conceivable, but the perfect root cause for future massive displacement will be maintained at the dawn of 21 century. It is serious and positive attentions must be given to the problem of incorporating Rakhine Muslims as full and equal citizen into Myanmar Nalion.369
ARAKANESE RULE OVER CHITTAGONG
Foreign historians regard Chronicles written by Rakhines to be exaggerated and based on unrealistic legends. These (Rakhine) chronicles say during the period of Wethali Dynasty, Chittangong or East Bengal was for sometimes under Arakan Kings. It emphasized Arakan Kings such as Gaulia, Mitzuthein (a) Taing Chit, Anu Lun Min, Alawmapru and Min Htee, in Lemyo period too, extended their sovereignty over 12 towns of Bengal. Again in Mrauk-U period, though the founder, Min Saw Mun (1430-1433) handed over Bengal to King of Gaur, for the help in regaining the Arakan Throne, his successor, Min Khari (a) Ali Khan (1433-1459) is said to have reoccupied Ramu. His successor Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalimah Shah is said to have gained control of Chittagong. Historian U HIa Tun Pru writes Min Bin (a) Zabauk Shah (1531-1551) extended his Kingship up to the Ganges River and to the border of Nepal. He writes Min Bin fought war against Mogul Emperor Humayun, who was defeated and made peace with Rakhine King by offering his daughter Begum Pasida. U HIa Tun Pru says, the famous Debrito or Ngazinkha who controlled Syriam and tried to revolt against Arakan King was not a Portuguese but a son of Min Bin, born of Begum Pasida. This version of U HIa Tun Phyu does not conform to that of western chronicles. Foreign historians cautiously accept this notion.Sir A.Phayre remarks that this is the characteristic extravagance of Arakese chroniclers in regard of the achievements or their monarchs.
In this connection i.e. on the relation of Arakan and East Bengal D.G.E.Hall, formerly Professor of History in the University of Rangoon, comments “In the reign of Anawrahta, Pagan asserted its authority over Arakan, but after 1287 this lapsed; and although before the establishment of Mrohong by Narameikhia in 1433, there was from time to time a certain amount of Burmese and Mon interference, Arakan’s contacts with Mohammedan India were probably closer than those with Burma. None of its rivers rises in Burma, and throughout its history its water communications with Bengal were much easier than its overland communications with Burma. When Bengal was strong, its rulers received the tribute of Arakan; at other times Arakan claim tribute from parts of the Ganges Delta. These fluctuations of power effected Chittagong, which was held alternatively by one side or the other. In 1459 it came into the hands of Arakan, which held it until it was finally annexed to the Mogul Empire in 1666.
Bengali researcher Dr S.B.Kanungo discusses more elaborately on this subject in his Ph.D.thesis i.e. The History of Chitlaoony Vol. I; He writes Chittagong in the early Christian century might form an independent Kingdom, but it definitely ceased to do as such from the 10th century A.D. Since that time Chittagong not indisputably known to have formed independent Kingdom.In fact its history is but the history of a particular province of its suzerain powers such as Arakan, Tripura, Bengal. Chittagong was like a bone of contention amongst the Muslims,Teppera and Arakan who strove for supremacy for the seaport. It has always been a disputed possession amongst the Muslims, Tippera and Arakan. So its boundaries could not be determined in ancient and medieval times.
Aryanization of the district began from the time of introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism.The Arab contact with Chittagong goes as far back as the 9th century A.D. The sturdy and warlike race of Afghans had once held sway over Bengal. Their authority extended not only up to Chittagong but as far south as Arakan. 370
According to contemporary Portuguese chronicles, Chittagong hill tracts and a portion of Arakan were included in the Kingdom of Huseein Shahi rulers. The boundaries of the province of Chittagong greatly fluctuate during the Pathan period. Though Sultan Mahmood Sur carried his victorious campaign over up to Arakan proper, his successor could not claim the territory south of Shanka River as part of their dominions. Numismatic sources state that the Pathan army of Mohammed Shah Gazi entered Arakan.371 It was perhaps after the death of Min Bin (a) Zabauk Shah (1551-1553).
Dr.Kanungo further narrates, the relalion between Chillagong and Burma especially its subject province Arakan is as old as the history of the district. The repeated Arakanese aggression in the district undoubtedly influenced the course of history.From late 16th century to the mid 17th century Chittagong was under the long and almost continuous rule of Arakanese Kings.372
The legacy of Arakanese regime over Chittagong was further described in a very interesting way by Dr.S.B. Kanungo; He says the close contact between Chittagong and Arakan from time immemorial down to the end of Alakanese Regime (in 1660 A.D.) has left distinctive marks on almost every aspect of society and culture of the district.
The name Marma, by which the Maghs of Chittagong hill tracts introduced themselves to others, is derived from Myanmar (or Burma), the national name of Burmans, which is only the vocal corruption of the written name.373
Traces of Magh homesteads (bhita) are still seen all over the district (Chittagong) especially the tract lying to the south of Kanaphulli (River). Many of the place names in Chittagong are of Arakanese origin. Not only the names of places but also some Burman terms, for example, Phora (Lord Buddha), Kyans (Temple), Phungyi (Priest), Rauli (Clergy) and words of such kind had made their way into the common use of Chittagong District. The Arakanese influence on dress, food, social customs etc. is also noticeable. The Arakanese Era or the Magh Era was widely prevalent in Chittagong before the introduction of Christian era by the British Government. Though the Al Hijrah and the Bengali Era were in vogue, the Arakanese was by far the most popular till the end of 19th century.374
Dr. Kanungo continues, “Arakan in fact, a continuation of Chittagong Plain, was neither purely a Burmese nor an Indian territory till the 18th century A.D. Referring to the geographical position of the country, Sir Henry Yule very aptly remarks that Arakan bears much the same relation to Burma that Norway did to Sweden.375
Shut off from Burma by a hill range it is located far away from Indian capitals. Chiefly for its location, it is not only remained independent for the most part of its history but also endeavored to expand its territory in the surrounding tract whenever opportunity came and Chittagong was the first country to be the victim of the territorial ambition of the Arakanese Monarchs. The land, which is called Arakan by foreigners, is called as Yakaing orYekeen or Rakhiang, 376 by its own people. From the word Rakhasa (Pali) or Rakhasha (Sanskrit), the name Rakhine derived. Rakhasha are a kind of demigods in Indian mythology.
Dr. Kanungo says Ba Saw Pru (a) Kalima Shah occupied Chittagong, but his successor again lost the control of it. So they did not have Muslim tittles. When Arakan King in Mrauk-U period occupied Chiltagong, they gave much facilities to the Portuguese, so as they can be used against Arakanese enemies, Muslims in the west and Tippera in the east. But the Portuguese were not Ioyal, they betrayed the Arakanese Kings many times: they even tried to seize power in Arakan proper. In 1602 A. D. the Portuguese revolted against the Kingdom of Arakan, but was putdown successfully by King Minraza Gyi (a) Slim Shah I (A.D. 1593 -1612).
Arakanese King Mm Bin (1531–1551) again occupied Chitlagong and other so-called 12 towns of Bengal. Chillagong always had been a bone of contention between Tripura, Arakan and Muslim. After Min Bin it again fell in the hands of Muslim Kings of West Bengal and Tripura. But again in the time of Mm Phalaung (a) Sikander Shah fell under the reign of Arakan and it remained under Alakanese rule continuously about a century until the time of Sanda Thudamma (1652-1674 A.D.) Arakanese Kings always keep their son or some close relatives to take care of Chitlagong.
There in 1660s, arose a crisis between Arakan King Sanda Thudamma and exiled Mogul Prince Shah Shujah. At the aftermath of Shah Shujah crisis, Mogul Emperor Aurenzeb invaded Chiltagong and occupied it in 1666.
The flight of Shah Shujah to Arakan made the Emperor so much mentally disturbed that he directed Mir Jumla, to follow the Prince even up to Arakan if necessary. But Mir Jumla’s death put a temporary halt to the proposed invasion of Arakan. Bernier says the massacre of Shah Shujah and his family by the Arakanese, greatly angered the Emperor. The Mogul had an ulterior design that of attacking the King of Rakan, and punishing him for his cruelties to the Sultan Shujah and to his family. Having determined to avenge the murder of those illustrious personages and by a signal example, to teach his neighbors, that the Princes of the Royal blood, in all situations, and under all circumstances must be treated with humanity and reverenced.377 So Aurenzeb entrusted Shaisia Khan with the task of conquering Chittagong from the Arakanese.
According to Bernier it was scarcely practice-able to march an army from Bengal into the Kingdom of Rakan owing to the great numbers of rivers and channels that intersect the frontier. So Shaista Khan rebuilt a Naval force with three hundred ships and equipped with materials. He had also well prepared infantry and artillery forces.
The Mogul first captured Sandwip Island on 12th of November 1665 A.D. In this event the Dutch at Batavia sided with Mogul because they were rivals of Portuguese who were favored much by successive Arakan king.378
After outbreak of Anglo-Dutch war in 1665 both became desirous to assist the Nawab, obviously to gain his favor. Then the Nawab felt embarrassed as to from which of the contending parties he would seek help At last lie no lonyr’i fell in need of their help.379 Later the Portuguese too deserted the Arakanese. Kamal, 380 a son of former King of Arakan, who had taken shelter in Dhaka during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, was also directed to go with Mir Murtaza, with a band of the Maghs who lived in Dhaka, on the assurance that he would be made chief of his tribe. Thus the Maghs at Chittagong were attacked from all side in January 1666. The Portuguese rendered excellent services in the naval attack. The imperial forces by land and sea encircled the fort of Chittagong on 26th January. The garrison (of Arakan King) after making a greal exertion found that they could not resist the Mogul army; and at last sought safety. The fort was set on fire and it was the sunset of the Maghs.381
According to the estimate of Sir A. P Phayre, the war booty consisted of more than twelve hundred pieces of cannons: most of them jingles carrying balls not exceeding one pound. About two thousand were made prisoners and sold as slaves. According to Alamgirnama, 1026 guns made of bronze and iron, many matchlocks and Jumburaks, mush shot and powder and other artillery materials and three elephants were captured.382
Mir Murtaza chased the fleeing Maghs. The Mir after traveling difficult roads, dense jungles and terrible rivers at the end of 12 days arrived within one mile of Ramu. Next day at noon he stormed the fort. The Arakanese King’s brother named Rawie, who held the Government of the place tried his best to oppose but being war stead he fled with the garrison to a jungle close to a hill near the fort. Mir Murtaza giving chase captured many and seized 80 guns, many musket and other war materials. But the Mogul did not marched further, and later retreated even from Ramu. Despite many times efforts by Arakan to gain control over Chittagong, they lost it forever. Hence Chittagong was annexed to Bengal.
With the death of Sanda Thudamma the resplendent Majesty of the Arakanese Monarchy came to an end. Under his unworthy successors the power and prestige of Arakanese Kingdom steadily declined. Between the fall of Chittagong (in A.D. 1666) and the accession of Sanda Wiziya (1710 A.D.) there were ten reigns averaging two and half years each. Three kings reigned for one year only, while two did not reign for more than one month each.Between Sanda Wiziya and Nara Abaya (1742 A.D.) the average reign was under two years. So insecure a policy, in the view of Mr. M. S. Collis, is little removed from anarchy.383
A long Arakanese rule of nearly a century made Chittagong a part of Arakan territory and it would have continued to be so if the conquest had not taken place. As a result of the conquest, Chittagong was again unified with Bengal, and the loss of Chittagong made Arakan henceforth, an exclusively Burman territory.
The Arakanese neo-Muslims such as Rohang Muslims, Kaman Muslims etc. live mostly in the southern frontier of the district. The Kamanchi are supposed to be the descendants of the followers of Shah Shujah.384
The loss of Chittagong was a great blow to the prestige and splendor of Arakanese Empire. She henceforth, never could maintain her original image, and Arakan was finally annexed to Burman by Ava King Bodaw Pya in 1786 A.D. Sir Jadunath Sarkar remarks such is the fate of nations that prefer ease to exertions, the acquisition of wealth to patriotic sacrifice and leaves their national defense in the hands of aliens.385
Although Chittagong was politically a part of the Arakanese Kingdom, culturally it remained a part of Bengal. The Arakanese rulers in spite of their belief in Buddhism not only patronize the Hindu and Muslim cultures but also encourage the settlement of these peoples in the Kingdom. The Portuguese activities in Chittagong developed intensively during the Arakanese rule …….. During their time Chiltagong earned notoriety as a center of slave hunting expeditions and slave trade in which they (the Portuguese) took a leading part.386
HISTORIC EXODUSES OF ROHINGYAS
Through out history there have been communal strife and wars. Especially in feudal age, this sort of communal unresl, community wise exoduses frequently occurred in almost everywhere in the world. In the same way there were exoduses of Muslims in Arakan too. Especially there were four exoduses occurred in 20th century alone. To name the exoduses serially are as follows:
- In 1660 A.D. there arose the crisis of the Mogul exiled Prince Shah Shujah.Muslims in the Kingdom were accused of siding with Shujah and suppressed and massacred. Consequently thousands had to flee into Bengal. It was the first exodus, as far as we trace the history.
- In 1710 A.D. King Sanda Wiziya suppressed the Kaman archers, who took the politics of Arakan in their own hands.The Kamans were Muslims and the general Muslims as a whole suffered much.This time Muslims had to flee to Bengal as well as to Ava. In Ava King Tsane,protected them and settled them in 12 different towns in separate groups.387
- According to the chronicle of Rakhine State Council, published in 1984,there was a Kalah (Muslim) uprising in the whole country in 1738 A.D. This uprising continued for years because the Kings of that time were very weak and the country was unstable.However successive Kings had ruthlessly suppressed and massacred the Muslims.Thus many had to flee into Chittagong Province, then under Mogul Empire. This is the third exodus.
- The fourth exodus occurred during the reign of Bodaw Pya. This time both Muslims and Rakhines flocked into Bengal Arakan, this time, was almost deserted. Most of these refugees returned when British occupied Arakan in 1825 A.D.
- The fifth exodus was due to a great panic of communal disharmony in 1942. As British withdrew from Arakan ahead of Japan’s entry, at the vacuum of Government, there arose communal killings. Being destitute, about 100,000 Muslims crossed Naf River into the British area, who were sheltered at Rangpur refugee camps. Some Rakhine, about 10,000, who were blocked at Maungdaw and dared not cross Buthidaung area, fled to India. These Rakhine refugees were sheltered by British at Dainuspur refugee camps. After the war, under official arrangement between the authorities of Bengal and Burma, these refugees (save a few thousand) were repatriated. Most of these returnees took their settlement in northern Arakan. Already a densely populated area.388
- The sixth exodus occurred in post independent period Both Mujahid and the army, especially the BTF (Burma Ternional Force) oppressed the public on accusation of complicity with their opponents. Wealthy respectable people were arrested, tortured, disgraced and killed, and villages were burnt down by BTF. Mujahids too, demanded various taxes and ransoms. In this doorned, gloomy period, mostly well to do people, to save their wealth, life and dignity took refuge in East Pakistan then. Most of this group did not comeback: settled permanently on that side and assimilated with the people there.
- The most extensive exodus was due to the harshness of Dragon King Operation in 1978. Nearly 300.000 fled to Bangladesh. But later repatriated under a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Burma. First Burma denied them to be Burmese citizens or residents. Later signed the agreement on 7th July 1978 to receive the refugees back, as they were residents of Burma and finally repatriated all.
- The last and the eighth exodus occurred in late 1991 and in early 1992. In that year 10 to 14 battalions of army took permanent establishment in Buthidaung Township alone. For the construction of their cantonments and new model Buddhist villages and new Pagodas, villages were removed.Thousands of hectors of land were seized. Forced labor and heavy portering introduced. Many died of infection of Cerebral Malaria on return. Thus people felt in great predicament and choose the way to Bangladesh for shelter. But this time the refugees were repatriated under a MOU signed between Burma and UNHCR Head Office. Most of them have been repatriated. NGOs from many quarters came to Arakan to help the refugees. But still there are some refugees left in Bangladesh camps whose case is under negotiation between the two Governments. This time the returnees got ample help from UNHCR and other NGOs. They are working for the reintegration of the returnees and development of the refugee area. But the question of their nationality right remained unsettled.
These all exoduses occurred not due to any natural disaster or catastrophe. All are man made. The expatriates during the time of Rakhine Kings dared not return until British occupation. After British annexation of Arakan, most of the early refugees came back to their native land where as many had taken permanent settlements in Chittagong and nearby Districts.
Historically Arakan has many names. Most of the names are nearer in pronunciation. Different people who had contacts with Arakan pronounced its name in their own languages, which sound a bit different from each other. Rakhasa,Rakhasha, Rakhapura were the names called by Indians. Arkhaung, Rakhanj, Rakham, Recon, Rachami and Rakhang were mostly used by Armenians, Moors, Arabs and Persians Recon, Rakan, Rachan, Rakao, Arkao and finally Arakan were the names found in the records of Dutch, Portuguese, French, Italian and English peoples.
Rakan, Rakham, Rohang and Roshang were found in medieval Bengali, Tripura and Indian literatures. People in Arakan (mostly the Muslims, Hindus and Bruwas) called their country Rowang or Rohang or Roshang. From Rohang, its people are Rohingyas. Perhaps there are many instances in the world, that countries and peoples are called by different names. For example, Sri Lanka is also known as Ceylon, India is known as Hindustan or Bharat, China is known as Sinn and Tayoke: people once known as Talaing are today Mon; the same is true for Kayah, who were once known as Karenni. Even Myanmar of today once officially was Burma.
Thus Rohingya’s name too, can be traced in other names such as Kalah (called by Rakhine and Burman), Muslims, Arakanese Muslims or even sometimes Burmese Muslims.These all terms are not appropriate racial names. The terms Rakhine derives from Rakhine Pyi, Arakanese from Arakan and Rohingya from Rohang.So here, Rohingya,Rakhine and Arakanese are synonymous, meaning the same thing, dwellers of Arakan. Since all ethnic groups in Arakan adopted a name for their own. Muslims too adopted their name as Rohingya instead of Muslim.In deed, the Hindus of Arakan today, who can trace their ancestry to the early Arakan period, are also Rohingya. For present day people of Islamic faith in Afeikan, the term Muslim and Rohingya are very often alternately used. Both denote the same entity ……………
In pre-independence period Muslims in Burma as a whole used to call themselves Myanmar Muslims or Burmese Muslims. In many literatures or history books, we find Arakan Muslims as main component of Buimese Muslims. Muslims in Arakan due to their socio-geographical differences used to regard themselves as Arakanese Muslims, in another word they used to show a separate entity from Burmese Muslims.
From the very beginning of the independence Myanmar Muslim, as a racial group is objected in Myanmar polilical and Ba-Ma-Ka (Burma Muslim Congress) was expelled from AFPFL (Pha-Sa-Pa-La) because its name shout not base on religion.According to Burmese political concept, an ethnic people’s name should not base on religion. Then the stand of Arakanese Muslim, as separate community became the subject of question too. And they happened to prefer their original ethnic name, Rohingya rather than being called either as Bengali or as Rakhine Muslims.
As we have studied in earlier chapters, Rohingya is a mixed race, where the culture of native Bengali has a major influence, because Arakan has historically close intercourses with East Bengal and Arakan Kings encouraged Muslims to preserve the culture, language and literature of Bengali. So dialects of Rohingya too have much Chittagonian influence, though it composes of Aiabic, Persian, Urdu and Rakhine vocabulanes Chittagonian and Rohingya dialects have some similarity, but not identical. Racial admixlure is a historical and worldwide phenomenon. There are instances that diffeient races speak the same language and people of the same race speak different languages. This too is true in case of present day Rohingya.
In 1826 A .D. the population of Arakan was only one hundred thousand. This comprises 60.000 Rakhmes, 30,000 Muslims and 10,000 Burmans. 389
This figure out one Muslim for every two Rakhines. In 1973 census the population of Arakan was a little over 1.7 million, which in 1983 grew into over 2 million, Estimation for today is about 3.5 million. Calculating on the Butish racial ratio i e. 2:1 will bring about more than 1 million Muslim population.The actual Muslim population at present doesn’t exceed above ratio.So the accusation that many have lately entered fiom Bangladesh is seemed to be incorrect. The reality is about one third of Arakann Muslims have left Arakan and took permanent settlement in foreign countries, where too, they are aliens.
Muslim population in northern Arakan is very thick because Muslims from the south got it as their haven and chose their settlement there after Second World War.
Religious edifices, names of the places, islands, rivers, and villages and other historic events proved that Rohingya is of antiquity. Rohingya’s presence in Arakan should not be judged only from the religious perspective; it should be assessed from the ethnic point of view, which traces their origin into the people of Welhali.
Rohingyas are faithful to their country. They never betrayed their land. They were faithful to Arakanese Kings and protected them. The splendor of Arakan or Mrauk-U period was due to their service and dedication to the Kingdom. Nowadays too, they are the most law abiding people in Myanmar. They are peace loving and desirous of having a proper and rightful place in the family of Myanmar peoples.
A Researcher of Arakan History
Yangon, Union of Myanmar.
Date: Nov., 2002,
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- JASB; Journal of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh/Bengal
- JASP; Journal of Asiatic Society. Pakistan
- AR, Asiatic Researches
- JBRS, Journal of Burma Research Society
- Thompson, Virginia and Richard Adlof. Minority Problems in Southeast Asia, Calif. Stanford University Press, 1955
- Siddiq Khan, M; Journal of Asiatic Society of Pakistan. (JASP) Vol. VII 1962
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- ASI, Archeological Survey of India
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Note The rest, especially the Burmese references can be seen in the footnote I believe most of the Authors and reference books not listed here above are familiar with our Burmese readers.
- A-1. A map in the book Muslim contribution to the geography by Dr Nafis Ahmed. London. indicating Arakan as a well known region to the Muslims since 8th cenluiy AD P-121
- A-2 A map showing South-East Asia dining 500 and 1500 A D as appeared in the Time Atlas of World History indicating Arakan as an independent Muslim kingdom
- A-3 A map showing cultural divisions of South-East Asia in 15th century A.D. as appealed in the Time Atlas of World Histoiy indicating Arakan as an Islamic Stale by Geoferry Banadough P-133
- B-1 A photograph of Kawal Jaffar Ahmed, the founder of Mujahid movement.
- B-2 The photographr, of Mr Sultan Mahmood, Ex-Health Minister, in U Nu‘s(Pa-Hla-Sa) last Cabinet and photographs of Mr.Ahdul Gaffar and Mr.Abul Bashar,Parliament Secretaries.
- C-1 Coins of ancient Arakan indicating Indian culture and coins of Mrauk-U period indicating Persian characters and Muslim names of Arakanese Kings. Some coins also contain Muslim titles of Arakanese Kings and the verse of Muslim confession of faith that is the Kalimah. These photos are taken from U San Tha Aung’s Arakan “Coins”.
- C-2 A stone insciiption with Arabic script found in the compound of Theingyi Taung Pagoda and preserved in Mrauk-U Museum
- C-3 Sandhi Khan Mosque built in 1433 AD at Mintayabyin, Mrauk-U by Muslim army who came to help enthrone Narameikhia (The founder of Mrauk-U dynasty)
- C-4 Majah Pali (a) Musa Pali built by an Indian missionary, Musa, in the time of 9th King of Mrauk-U (1513-1515 A .D.). It stands at Maungthagon Village. Mrauk-U.
- C-5 Historic Budder Mokam on the southern edge of Akyab Island built in 1756 in memory of the eminent Saint Allahma Shah Badder Uddin well known as Badder Aulla who visited the area in mid 14th century.