India Myanmar Relations | Rohingya Crisis – Full Explanation & Analysis

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Who are the Rohingyas?

  • The Rohingya People Historically also termed as the Arakanese Indians) are stateless Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
  • There were an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis.
  • The majority are Muslim while a minority are Hindu.
  • Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
  • The recent crackdowns on the Rohingya population by the Myanmar Military have forced them to migrate to South-Eastern Bangladesh.

What Language do they speak?

The Rohingya language is part of the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the greater Indo-European language family and is related to the Chittagonian language spoken in the southernmost part of Bangladesh bordering Myanmar.

What Religion do they follow?

The Rohingya people practice Sunni Islam along with elements of Sufism. The government restricts their educational opportunities; many pursue fundamental Islamic studies as their only option. Mosques and madrasas are present in most villages. Traditionally, men pray in congregations and women pray at home.

Human Rights & Refugee Status

  • The Rohingya people have been described as “one of the world’s least wanted minorities” and “some of the world’s most persecuted people”.
  • The Rohingyas are deprived of the right to free movement and the right to higher education.
  • They have been denied Burmese citizenship since the Burmese nationality law was enacted.
  • They are not allowed to travel without official permission and they were previously required to sign a commitment not to have more than two children, though the law was not strictly enforced.
  • They are subjected to routine forced labour. Typically, a Rohingya man will have to give up one day a week to work on military or government projects, and one night a week for sentry duty.
  • The Rohingya have also lost a lot of arable land, which has been confiscated by the military and given to Buddhist settlers from elsewhere in Myanmar

What is the Rohingya Crisis?

  • Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist (80-90% population).
  • The Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Burmese citizenship law.
  • The Rohingyas have faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991–1992, 2012, 2015 and 2016–2017.
  • UN officials and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have described Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing,
  • Despite being able to trace Rohingya history to the 8th century, Burmese law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight “national races”.
  • The official stance of the Myanmar government, however, has been that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Myanmar’s government does not recognize the term “Rohingya” and it prefers to refer to the community as Bengalis.
  • They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs.
  • The military that ruled Myanmar for half a century relied heavily on mixing Burmese nationalism and Theravada Buddhism to bolster its rule, and, in the view of the US government, heavily discriminated against minorities like the Rohingyas and the Chinese people in Myanmar such as the Kokangs and Panthays.
  • Successive Burmese governments have been accused of provoking riots led by Buddhist monks against ethnic minorities like the Rohingyas and Chinese.

Events of 2012-2017 & RESULTANT REFUGEE CRISIS

Events of 2012

  • The 2012 Rakhine State riots were a series of conflicts between Rohingya Muslims who are majority in the northern Rakhine and ethnic Rakhines who are a majority in the south.
  • Before the riots, there were widespread and strongly held fears circulating among Buddhist Rakhines that they would soon become a minority in their ancestral state.
  • According to the Burmese authorities, the violence, between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, left 78 people dead, 87 injured, and up to 140,000 people have been displaced.
  • On 10 June 2012, a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine, allowing the military to participate in the administration of the region.
  • In July 2012, the Burmese Government did not include the Rohingya minority group in the census—classified as stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh since 1982

Events of 2016

  • On 9 October 2016, unidentified individuals who the Myanmar government claimed were insurgents attacked three Burmese border posts along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. Few soldiers were also killed in subsequent attacks.
  • The Myanmar military forces and extremist Buddhists started a major crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims in the country’s western region of Rakhine State in response to attacks on border police camps by unidentified insurgents.

Events of 2017

  • On August 25, 2017 Roginya militants attacked the government forces, and the government in response attacked the civil population, forcing dozens of thousands of Roginya to flee to Bangladesh.
  • Human Rights Watch in August 2017 said that satellite images showed widespread burning in 10 areas in northern Rakhine.
  • There were also reports of mass killings of Rohingyas by the military and Buddhist vigilantes

Resultant Refugee Crisis

  1. As a result of the Autumn 2017 military “clearance operations” and reprisals, as of mid-September, 2017, about 400,000 mostly-Rohingya refugees (about a third of the Rohingya population) have fled, or been driven out of, Rakhine — most fleeing to Bangladesh.
  2. Thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar, many crossing by land into Bangladesh, while others take to the sea to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
  3. Reports emerged of several human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Burmese security forces in their crackdown on suspected Rohingya insurgents.
  4. Various International Organisations like UN bodies, Amnesty International etc have criticised the Human Rights violation and have asked the Government of Myanmar to step in & resolve the issue as soon as possible.
  5. The de facto head of government of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has particularly been criticized for her inaction and silence over the issue and for doing little to prevent military abuses, although actions from her government towards the military may resume longtime tensions between the Burmese Military and Suu Kyi.


  • India has refused to allow the Rohingya refugees to settle in India.
  • The most important reason for this being that India is concerned that some Rohingyas have connections with insurgent & terror groups and could pose a threat to India’s internal security.
  • Instead, according to reports, India has shown intent to use diplomacy with Myanmar & Bangladesh to end the crisis and pressurise Myanmar to back the refugees and maintain peace.
  • India is already dealing with terrorism funded by hostile neighbours and Left Wing Extremism. A new threat will only complicate the security plans.
  • India has reiterated that the Rohingya Muslims, due to the sufferings, are prone to be targeted by various Terror Groups and could pose serious threats to the South-Asian region if the crisis is not resolved peacefully.
  • India has launched Operation Insaniyat to help the Rohingyas in the Bangladeshi refugee camps by providing humanitarian assistance such as food, medicine, mosquito nets etc.
  • Diplomacy is the ultimate solution to this crisis as a peaceful Myanmar is important for India. If the issue is not resolved early, the refugees would become a direct target for the propaganda of various terror outfits.
  • Myanmar Government must show the intent to solve the issue & accept the refugees as equal citizens.

Course Discussion