2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous People and Rohingya

ZYA
By ZYA August 10, 2016 16:38

2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous People and Rohingya

By Aman Ullah

RVision Article and Analysis

“Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma, which you represent. In fact, there are no pure indigenous races in Burma and that if you do not belong to indigenous races Burma; we also cannot be taken as indigenous races of Burma.” President Saw Shwe Thaik,

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, celebrated each year on 9 August, marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

This year, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is devoted to indigenous peoples’ right to education, given the persistent gaps between indigenous and non -indigenous students in terms of access to education, school retention and graduation rates in all regions of the world.

“On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on Governments everywhere … to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning,” said United Nations Secretary -General Ban Ki -moon, adding, “Let us commit to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 14 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

The adjective indigenous is derived from the two Ancient Greek words indo= endo/ “ενδό(ς)”, meaning inside/within, and genous= (γέννoυς), meaning birth/born and also race, etymology meaning “native” or “born within”.

James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has defined indigenous peoples as “living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest”.

They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

In 1972 the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) accepted as a preliminary definition a formulation put forward by Mr. José R. Martínez-Cobo, Special Rapporteur on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. This definition has some limitations, because the definition applies mainly to pre-colonial populations, and would likely exclude other isolated or marginal societies.

“Indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”

Thus, Indigenous peoples were the descendants of those peoples that inhabited a territory prior to colonization or formation of the present state.

The Rohingyas are Muslims who are living in Arakan generation after generation for centuries after centuries. They are nationals as well as an indigenous community of Burma. They are equal in every way with other communities of the country. Their arrival in Arakan has pre-dated the arrival of many other peoples and races now residing in Arakan and other parts of Burma. They developed from different stocks of peoples and concentrated in a common geographical location forming their own society with a consolidated population in Arakan well before the Burman invasion in 1784.

Mr. M.A. Gaffer, from Buthidaung, was a member of 1947 Constitutional Assembly, an Upper House MP from 1951 to 1960 and also a Parliamentary Secretary in Health Ministry.

He wrote, in his Memorandum, which was presented to the Regional Autonomy Enquiry Commission dated the 24th May, 1949, that,
“We the Rohingyas of Arakan are a nation. We maintain and hold that Rohingyas and Arakanse are two major nations in Arakan. We are a nation of nearly nine lakhs more than enough population for a nation; and what is more we are a nation according to any definition of a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions aptitude and ambitions, in short, we have our distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law the Rohingyas are a nation in Arakan.”

Mr. Sultan Ahmed, from Maung Daw, was a member of 1947 Constitutional Assembly, a Member of Parliament from 1951 to 1960 and was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Minorities, Ministry of Relief and Resettlement, and the Ministry of Social and Religious Affairs, with the status of Deputy Minister. He was one of the longest serving parliamentary secretaries.

According to him, “when section 11 of the constitution of the Union of Burma was being framed, a doubt as to whether the Muslims of North Arakan fell under the section of sub-clauses (I) (II) and (III), arose. In effect an objection was put in to have the doubt cleared in respect of the term ‘indigenous’ as used in the constitution. But it was ithdrawn on the understanding and assurance of the President of the Constitutional Assembly, at present His Excellency the President of the Union of Burma, who, when approached for clarification with this question, said, ‘Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma, which you represent. In fact, there are no pure indigenous races in Burma and that if you do not belong to indigenous races Burma; we also cannot be taken as indigenous races of Burma.’ Being satisfied with his kind explanation, the objection put in was withdrawn.”

Being indigenous peoples, they have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, as well as their legal systems, while retaining their rights to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of State. Not only have they had the right to a nationality but also the rights to their lands, territories and resources, which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spirituals traditions, histories and philosophies.

Under any cannons of international law and human civilization the Rohingyas are much more than a national minority. They are a nation with a population of more than 3 million (both home and abroad), having a supporting history, separate culture, civilization, language and literature, historically settled territory and reasonable size of population and area. They share a public culture different from the public culture of those around them. They are determined not only to preserve and develop their public culture, but also to transmit to future generations as the basis of their continued existence as people, in accordance with their own cultural pattern, social institution and legal system.

Being indigenous peoples, they have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, as well as their legal systems, while retaining their rights to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of State. Not only have they had the right to a nationality but also the rights to their lands, territories and resources, which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spirituals traditions, histories and philosophies.

Thus, during the colonial rule the British recognized the separate identity of the Rohingyas and declared north Arakan as the Muslim Region. Again there are instances that Prime Minister U Nu, Prime Minister U Ba Swe, other ministers and high- ranking civil and military official, stated that the Rohingyas people like the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kaya, Mon and Rakhine. They have the same rights and privileges as the other nationals of Burma regardless of their religious beliefs or ethnic background.

Being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, the Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma. Their representatives were in the Legislative Assembly, in the Constituent Assembly and in the Parliament. As members of the new Parliament, their representatives took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4thJanuary 1948. Their representatives were appointed as cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. They had their own political, cultural, social organizations and had their programme in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BSS). As a Burma’s racial groups, they participated in the official “Union Day’ celebration in Burma’s capital, Rangoon, every year. To satisfy part of their demand, the government granted them limited local autonomy and declared establishment of Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) in early 60s, a special frontier district to be ruled directly by the central government.

In spite of that the Rohingya are the worst victims of human rights violations in Burma. They were displaced. Their identity was polluted. Their population was diluted. Their right to nationality was arbitrarily deprived. Since 1948, expelling the Rohingyas from their ancestral land and properties has become almost a recurring phenomenon. About 2 million uprooted Rohingyas have taken shelters in many countries of the world since the anti-Muslim pogrom of 1942 in Arakan.

Since 1942, the Rakhine Buddhists pushed the Muslims from the southern Arakan to the northern Arakan.

Since 1962, successive military regimes denied their citizenship right by labeling that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Since 1982, the regimes completely denied the citizenship rights of the Rohingyas by enacting the most controversial Citizenship Law -1982.

Since 2012, the Thein Sein regime rejected their identity and forcefully making them Bengali.

Since then, the Rohingya have been backed into a corner, their lives made so intolerable that tens of thousands have fled by sea, seeking safety and a sense of dignity elsewhere. Surviving the perilous journey to Bangladesh, Thailand or Malaysia is, too often, seen as the only way to finally be free from persecution.

Campaigns of terror, crimes against humanity and extermination have been perpetrated against the Rohingya in a systematic and planned way. The restrictions on freedom of movement, marriage and education have dashed any future hope of development for the Rohingya, including forming families, all while they live in subhuman conditions amidst abject poverty. Humiliating restrictions on movement—even on travel from place to place within the same locality—have affected all normal activities in all fields, crippling the Rohingya socially, economically and educationally. The Rohingya have been singled out for systematic destruction.

Today, this group is increasingly jobless, homeless, without land of their own and the most illiterate section of Burma’s population. They are not tolerated and are systematically excluded and rendered ‘stateless’ in their own homeland because of their religious belief and ethnicity. They are not only denied their nationality but also their citizenship rights. They are now a people without a country dying alive and facing ‘slow-burning genocide’.

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ZYA
By ZYA August 10, 2016 16:38

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