Tag Archives: Bengal

The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Postlude


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The Veddhas or Wanniya-laeto (‘forest-dwellers’) of the wanni (dry monsoon forest) are Sri Lanka’s indigenous inhabitants. According to scholars, the Veddhas of today perpetuate a direct line of descent from the island’s original Neolithic community that dates back to at least 16,000 BC.

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Wanniya-laeto ('Vedda') elders of Dambana. (Source: Vedda.org)
Wanniya-laeto (‘Vedda’) elders of Dambana. (Source: Vedda.org)

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For the past eighteen centuries or more the indigenous Veddha communities have been forced to retreat deeper into the ever-shrinking forests pummeled by successive waves of immigration and colonization that began with the arrival of the north Indians in the 5th century BC.

According to their culture the Veddhas revere and venerate their ancestors. At present, the surviving dwindling Veddha communities still live in the dry monsoon forests with their uncanny knowledge of their jungle habitat. They still retain the memory of their prehistoric culture and preserve their cultural identity and traditional lifestyle, despite facing the many challenges and relentless pressure from the surrounding dominant Sinhala and Tamil communities.

In the North Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, a few Veddhas have been absorbed into the mainstream Sinhala communities and on the East Coast into the Tamil communities.

The migration routes of the ancestors of the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups into Sri Lanka.
The migration routes of the ancestors of the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups into Sri Lanka.

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Ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa, relate the origin of the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka to the arrival of Prince Vijaya from an area either in the northeast or northwest India, and his later affiliation with people from south India. Students of Indian history argue that the lore of Vijaya should be interpreted to favour either one or the other of the northern origins, or a mixture of people from both areas.

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W. S. Karunatillake (late), Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
W. S. Karunatillake (late), Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.

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W. S. Karunatillake (late), Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, a Sinhala linguist, supported the hypothesis that the Sinhalese people originated in Eastern India because over 50% Sinhala words resemble words in the Bengali language. Even so, the question: “Did Vijaya and his companions migrate to Sri Lanka from Singhpur, Kalinga in northeast India, or from Sihor, Gujarat in northwest India?” still remains unresolved.

Some scholars identify the Lála country, where Sinhabahu founded Sinhapur, with the modern Rarh region of West Bengal, India that is still called Lala/Larh. Sanskrit texts refer to it as Lata-desa. Al-Biruni, a historian, chronologist and linguist of the medieval Islamic era calls it Lardesh in the extreme hilly west of Bengal where the Hooghly district and modern Singur is located. However, some scholars identify the region as modern Gujarat.

References weigh more in favor of Vijaya’s origin to lower Indus, and Sihor, which was officially known as Sinhapur in Kathiawar peninsula in ancient times. Also, the only home to Asiatic lions (locally referred as ‘Sinh‘ or ‘Sinha‘) is Gir Forest in Kathiawar peninsula in Gujarat and the approach to core Gir territory is just a few miles away from Sihor. In fact, to date, lions are sighted in rural areas adjoining Sihor.

According to the history chronicled in the Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya and his wayward followers before landing at Tambapanni, first disembarked at the haven called Suppäraka, now identified with modern Sapporo, in the Thana district north of Mumbai. If Lála country was in northeast India, how could Vijaya and his companions dispatched from there, land at the port of Suppäraka in northwest India?

If we presume that the story of Vijaya narrated in the Mahavasa is historically correct, then, Prince Vijaya and his followers would have set sail from northwest India from a coastal harbour in Gujarat. Their contribution to the modern Sinhalese must have been erased by the long-standing interrelationship with people from Tamil Nadu for over 2,000 years.

According to the Mahavamsa, the population of Sri Lanka is heterogeneous – composed of diverse ethnic groups from India.

So far, most studies on the genetic affinities of the Sinhalese have been contradictory. Some investigators suggest a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil and North Western Indian contribution, while others point towards a predominantly Tamil origin followed by a significant Bengali contribution with no North Western Indian contribution.

However, it is emphatically proved that the ancient ancestors of the current Sinhalese people came originally from northeast or northwest India as shown by genetic, linguistic and religious connections. After their arrival in Sri Lanka, the ancients intermarried to a minor extent with the indigenous Veddhas. Population genetic studies on the Sinhalese undertaken by various investigators show that they certainly intermarried extensively with Tamils of Southern India than with the Veddhas.

For the most part, according to the Mahavamsa, the modern Sinhalese are related to the Tamils as far back as 543 BC, with some elements of ancestry connected later with Bengalis, Gujaratis, Punjabis and Indian Moors. This is also supported by a genetic distance study, which showed low differences in genetic distance between the Sinhalese and the Tamil, Keralite and Bengali volunteers.

Because Sri Lanka lies on important sea trade routes, it has from ancient times received a constant influx of people from India and from various parts of the world, especially from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Europe, and the far-east. However, the genetic studies on the Sinhalese do not seem to show any ancestry from China or Southeast Asia.

In the 1995 study, “Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations” by Dr. Gautam K. Kshatriya (Source: National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Munirka, New Delhi, India) published in Hum Biol. 1995 Dec;67(6):843-66, the author says:

Mythological and historical sketches of the Sri Lankan population indicate that it is heterogeneous and composed of diverse ethnic groups. Ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka relate the origin of the Sinhalese to the legend of Prince Vijaya, who arrived on the northwest coast of the island in 543 B.C. from northeast or northwest India. … Taking into consideration mythological, historical, and linguistic records of Sri Lanka, I attempt to study the degree of gene diversity and genetic admixture among the population groups of Sri Lanka along with the populations of southern, northeastern, and northwestern India, the Middle East, and Europe.

The genetic distance analysis was conducted using 43 alleles controlled by 15 codominant loci in 8 populations and 40 alleles controlled by 13 codominant loci in 11 populations. Both analyses give a similar picture, indicating that present-day Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to Indian Tamils and South Indian Muslims. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India and Bengalis of northeast India. Veddhas, are distinct because they are confined to inhospitable dry zones and are hardly influenced by their neighbors.

The study of genetic admixture revealed that the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka have a higher contribution from the Tamils of southern India (69.86% +/- 0.61) compared with the Bengalis of northeast India (25.41% +/- 0.51), whereas the Tamils of Sri Lanka have received a higher contribution from the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (55.20% +/- 9.47) compared with the Tamils of India (16.63% +/- 8.73).

Genetic Admixture of Sinhalese by Dr. Gautam K. Kshatriya

In the 2009 study, “Prevalence of genetic thrombophilic polymorphisms in the Sri Lankan population–implications for association study design and clinical genetic testing services” by V.H. Dissanayake, L.Y. Weerasekera, G.G. Gammulla, and R.W. Jayasekara (Source: Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka.) first published electronically on July 8, 2009, is consistent with the notion that Sinhalese are closely related to other Sri Lankans. The frequencies of the alleles observed were very similar between Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Moors and they were also similar to those in some ethnic groups from southern India. Excerpts from the Abstract:

“We investigated the prevalence of genotypes/alleles of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and haplotypes defined by them in three genes in which variations are associated with venous thromboembolism in 80 Sinhalese, 80 Sri Lankan Tamils and 80 Moors in the Sri Lankan population and compared the SNP data with that of other populations in Southern India and haplotype data with that of HapMap populations. … The frequencies observed were similar to data from other South Indian populations; […]”

Both the above studies present almost a similar picture. Genetic distance analysis, despite the limitations imposed by the data, shows that modern Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Tamils and Keralites of south India and the upper caste groups of Bengal. They are farthest from Veddahs and quite distant from Gujaratis and Punjabis of northwest India.

Similarly, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are closer to the Sinhalese because they were always and are near to each other historically, linguistically, and culturally.

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← Previous:  Part 6 – Abhaya and His Sister Ummada Citta

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The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 1 – Sinhabahu


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The consort of the king of the Vanga (a seafaring nation, in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent, comprising today’s politically divided Bengal region comprising West Bengal and Bangladesh), was Queen Mayavati, a princess from Kalinga. The royal couple had a daughter named Suppadevi, of whom at birth the court astrologers and soothsayers foretold evil falling upon her. They prophesied that the princess would be wilful and would have union with the king of beasts and lead a wild and unbecoming life.

So, princess Suppadevi was jealously guarded. She was very fair and grew up as the loveliest maiden in the Vanga kingdom. However, she was amorous and exuded uncontrollable sexuality. The king and the queen were not able to tolerate her defiance of parental authority and social norms.

One fine day, desiring the joy of an independent life, Princess Suppadevi eluding the vigilant royal attendants left her royal abode. She joined a caravan travelling to the Magadha country.

While camping in the forest of the Lála country the caravan met with disaster.

Scholars identify Lála country with the modern Rarh region of West Bengal, India which is still called Lala/Larh. Sanskrit texts refer to it as Lata-desa. Al-Biruni, a historian, chronologist and linguist of the medieval Islamic era calls it Lardesh at the extreme hilly west of Bengal where Hooghly district and modern Singur is located. Some scholars identify it as modern Gujarat.

Lion - 02

 

According to the Mahavamsa, a lion attacked the caravan. However, the truth seems to be that it was a robber chief named Sinha, who with his men plundered the caravan).

While the other folk fled this way and that, Suppadevi ran along the path by which the lion had come.

After having assuaged its hunger, the lion beheld the libidinous princess from afar. It immediately desired her carnally. Waving its tail and ears laid-back, it approached Suppadevi. Seeing the lion, the princess remembered the prophecy of the astrologers and soothsayers. Without fear, she caressed the lion lustily rousing it to a fiery passion by her sensuous touch.

Suppadevi climbed on to the beast’s back. The lion immediately sped to its cave carrying the princess, and there it united with her. From this union, the princess in time bore twins – a son and a daughter. The son’s limbs were formed like a lion’s and Suppadevi named him Sinhabahu or lion-armed and named the daughter Sinhasivali or lion-maiden.

The lion kept them in a cave and covered the entrance with a huge rock.

Sinhabahu, Suppadevi, Sinhavalli and the Lion
Sinhabahu, Suppadevi, Sinhasivali and the Lion

When Sinhabahu was about sixteen years old, Suppadevi told him about her ancestry. The youth, longing to know more about the civilized world, wanted to leave the lion’s den.

One day, when the lion left the cave in search of prey, Sinhabahu after rolled off the rocky barrier. He carried his mother and sister on his shoulders and left the cave in haste. They clothed themselves with branches of trees and reached a border-village. There they met a son of Suppadevi’s uncle,  a commander in the army of the Vanga king who ruled the border-country.

The commander gave them clothing which transformed into splendid garments. He served them food on leaves and by reason of their merit, the leaves turned into dishes of gold. The amazed commander asked Suppadevi who she was. The princess told him about her family and clan. The commander then took his uncle’s daughter with him and went to the capital of the Vangas and married her.

When the lion, returning to its cave missed those three people it loved most. It grieved after its offsprings. It neither ate nor drank. Seeking its children it went to the villages in the border-country and found them deserted.

The border-folk came to the king and told that a ferocious lion ravaged their land and appealed to him to ward off this danger.

The king offered a thousand gold coins for the person who would kill the lion.

When Sinhabahu expressed his intention to kill the lion, twice did his mother restrain him.

Since no one dared to kill the lion, the king raised the bounty to two thousand and then to three thousand gold coins along with his kingdom for whoever killed the ravaging lion.

Without informing his mother, Sinhabahu presented himself before the aged king and volunteered to kill the lion.

The youth went to his former home, the lion’s den. When the beast saw Sinhabahu from afar it came forward, to greet its lost son. Sinhabahu without any remorse shot an arrow to slay his father, the lion. Due to the paternal love of the beast, the arrow struck its forehead, rebounded, and fell at the son’s feet without causing any harm. Sinhabahu shot another arrow and then a third, but neither harmed the lion. The lion became wrathful and growled. The fourth arrow pierced the lion’s body and killed it.

Sinhabahu cut off the head of the lion along with its majestic mane. When he reached the capital he learned that seven days had passed since the death of the king of the Vangas.

The ministers rejoiced over the youth’s valiant deed. When the ministers saw Suppadevi, they were all happy to learn that Sinhabahu was the grandson of the late king. The ministers in unison requested the valiant young man him to be their king. Sinhabahu accepted the kingship. Later when his mother got married he handed the kingdom to his mother’s husband.

Sinhabahu with his twin-sister Sinhasivali left the capital of the Vangas and went back to Lála country, the land of their birth. There he made his twin-sister Sinhasivali his consort. He built a city, and they called it Sinhapura.

Sinhasivali gave birth to twin sons sixteen times. Altogether there were thirty-two sons. King Sinhabahu named his eldest son Vijaya, and the younger twin-brother Sumitta. Sinhabahu consecrated Vijaya as prince-regent.

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← Previous: Prelude                                                                → Next: Part 2 – Vijaya

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Exodus of People from Northeastern States Back to Their Native Places


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Thousands of workers and students from Assam and other northeastern states living in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala have already left for their native places. This was due to the threat spread via SMS, that a set of miscreants probably would seek them out after Eid. This has prompted the Assam government to stay on high alert to reduce recurrence of violence after Eid.

On Sunday, August 19, Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam convened a high-level emergency meeting attended by the State Chief Secretary N.K. Das, Director General of Police J.N. Chaudhury, three former DGs of Assam law enforcement and government officials. The Chief Minister informed them that in Jalpaiguri area of West Bengal, miscreants killed four people and injured at least nine others in an Assam-bound special train originating from Bangalore. The train that was among three Bangalore-Guwahati specials, which were coming to Assam, had reached Guwahati that Sunday morning.

The chief Minister then told them that Assam government had dispatched officials to Jalpaiguri area to find out what exactly triggered the death of the four people. He said that occurrence of fresh violence that could erupt as soon as the Eid festivity comes to an end in the state worried him. He asked his officials to set up a contingency plan straight away to meet any emergency that could happen in the next few days.

In the meantime, the Assam government has asked the Indian Railways not to offer any more special trains from any state to Guwahati for the panic-stricken people from the region. The Chief Minister said most people who had come due to panic were now eager to return to their workplaces and educational institutes outside the state.

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Panic in Bangalore. Muslims say, “If you feel unsafe, come to our homes, mosques.”


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

Assam burning
Assam burning

In July 2012, ethnic violence in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam erupted between the Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants and the indigenous Bodos. Nearly 80 people died during last month alone. 400,000 people have been displaced from almost 400 villages, and are sheltered in 270 relief camps.

The Muslim population in the North-East consists of refugees who migrated before the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Currently, Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, are infiltrating into the region. This violent outbreak is due in part to the rising ethnic nationalism (most notably Bodo nationalism) and diaspora politics

On 27 July 2012, Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blamed the national government for its delay in sending the army to riot-hit areas. The following day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the relief camps in Kokrajhar and said the recent violence is a blot on the face of India.

Desecration of Amar Jawan Jyoti
Desecration of Amar Jawan Jyoti

On 11 August 2012, a protest was organised by the Raza Academy against the attacks on Muslims in Assam and in Myanmar was held at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. The protest was attended by two other groups, Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa. It ended in violence, leading to two deaths and 54 injured including 45 policemen. The most disturbing images were those of miscreants demolishing the “Amar Jawan Jyoti” a symbol of Indian Valour.

Now, the people from the North-East living in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune are on their guard against aftershocks and repercussions. Thousands of people are fleeing the southern city of Bangalore amid rumours. They said that text messages were circulating, which warned of attacks by Muslims in retaliation for communal violence in their home state.

However, leaders from the Bangalore’s Muslim community assured students from the North-East with regard to their personal safety in Bangalore. Because panic-stricken men and women from the North-East continue to get out of Bangalore, leaders of the local Muslim community talked with student representatives and assured them that there would be almost nothing to be worried. Akbar Ali, convener of the Muslim welfare association said those people who seriously feel quite unsafe in their home are welcome to come to the homes of Muslims and to the mosques to take shelter. Ali also told the students that there was no need to worry. “We will protect you, but please do not leave the city. It is your city as much as ours,” reassured Ali.

Hundreds of students and workers from Assam thronged Bangalore’s main railway station on Thursday to try to board trains leaving the city, while officials tried to assure them of their safety.

The Central government and the Karnataka State government say emphatically that there is no need for the people from the North-East living in Bangalore to return to their homes as there is no imminent threat to them in the City.

The police are monitoring social-networking sites to find those creating this panic. Though the level of panic has come down as compared to Wednesday, people continue to leave the city. People from the North-East say that as per the messages or rumours being circulated, the attacks could come after the 20th of this month; hence, they did not want to be here at that time. However, the Bangalore police say that no incidents have been reported on any attack on citizens from the North-East in the city. Their message says, “Do not panic or heed to rumours. In case you need help, please call the control room.”

The state administration, on the other hand, is doing all it can to assure the panic-stricken people that they were safe within the city. Law Minister, Suresh Kumar, when contacted informed that he met with most of the people at the railway station and assured them of their safety. Most of the people want to go home to their parents as there have been incidents that prompted them to leave the city.The latest developments:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered monitoring of social networking and online community websites to identify those who are misreporting facts and throe spreading rumours through email messages to trigger communal violence.
  • Acknowledging that rumours and threatening text messages are fuelling tension, the Prime Minister said, “We must work together to ensure that all people from other states do not feel threatened by rumour-mongering and SMSes. We have to maintain peace at any cost.” He also urged all political parties to “work together to give a feeling of confidence” to all people affected in the recent violence in Assam.
  • In Bangalore, for the second night in a row, two special trains departed for Guwahati, in addition to the regular train that runs every evening. Officials say the rush is partly because of the long weekend. But some students from states like Assam and Manipur say their parents are worried about their safety and want them back at home.
  • Bangalore Police Commissioner Jyothiprakash Mirji visited the railway station to reiterate, “No incidents have been reported of attack on North-Eastern citizens in Bangalore. Do not panic or pay heed to rumour.”
  • Student representatives of Bangalore’s north-eastern community met on Thursday morning with Muslim leaders who have said they will continue to disseminate messages of peace. “Those feeling unsafe may take shelter in our homes and mosques. But please do not leave the city. It is yours as much as it is mine,” said Akbar Ali, Convenor, Bangalore’s Muslim Welfare Association.
  • Jagadish Shettar, who heads the BJP government in Karnataka, met students from the North-East on Thursday and said, “We are all with you…there is nothing to worry (about).” He also reassured them that nobody has been attacked in the state as a result of the ethnic violence in Assam. A helpline has been set up for the north-eastern community in the city.
  • Indians from the North-East, living in cities like Bangalore, should stay where they are, said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday afternoon. He phoned the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Wednesday and asked that his administration ensure the safety of students and young professionals in Bangalore.
  • After reports of new ethnic violence in Assam, the Army will be deployed in the state to help maintain law and order; the state government has formally sought its assistance today. Nine columns of the Army (about 600 personnel) will be stationed in Nalbari, an important town in Lower Assam which has been hit by ethnic violence.
  • A car was set ablaze on Wednesday night in Baksa, which is in lower Assam, and was one of the districts affected in the recent clashes between Bodo tribal and Bengali-speaking Muslims. Angry locals, in response, torched a bus and a bridge on Thursday morning. Nearly 80 people have died in the last month in the ethnic clashes. Till recently, four lakh people were packed into relief camps.
  • In New Delhi, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, “Panic due to rumours in Karnataka is a very serious issue. The Karnataka government will do everything to protect the people from the North-East. It is a case of concerted effort to create a divide among people.” She also urged the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to build confidence among people from the North-East who study or work in cities like Hyderabad and Pune.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Was the Rakhine Buddhist Woman Raped or Married by a Rohingya Muslim Man?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Myanmar, formerly Burma, has a diverse ethnic and religious make-up. Now, there are at least 800,000 Rohingya Muslims in the country. However, they are not recognized as one of its ethnic group by the government.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. In 1982, the military junta stripped off all citizen rights of the Rohingyas through a so-called “Citizenship Law” thus making them the only stateless community of the world.

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A man walks through a neighborhood that was burnt in recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.
A man walks through a neighborhood that was burnt in recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.

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In late May this year, sectarian violence erupted between Buddhists and Rohingyas in the Rakhine (or Arakan) province of Western Myanmar.

We are faced with conflicting reports from all quarters.

According to “Voice of America,” the violence broke out in late May after three Muslim men were accused of raping and murdering a young Buddhist woman and 10 Muslims were killed in an apparent revenge attack.

However, according to Pakistan’s “The News,” Intikhab Alam Suri, President, Human Rights Network says that on May 28, a Buddhist girl embraced Islam and married a Muslim man. This infuriated the Buddhist community. They resorted to vengeance. They stopped a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims and killed some of them.

Which version is true?

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Thein Sein, President of Myanmar
Thein Sein, President of Myanmar

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No one knows for sure how many died in this ethnic violence. President Thein Sein dismissed such speculations in comments carried by the state-controlled “New Light of Myanmar.” He said he was “disheartened by the hairsplitting of the media.” He insisted that only 77 people – 31 Rakhine Buddhists and 46 Rohingya Muslims – have died. However, some rights groups and media reports suggest the figure may be higher.

The issue has prompted a wave of criticism by Muslim and non-Muslims the world over. Some view the conflict as a case of religious persecution against the Muslims. The Saudi-based Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also urged a probe into the violence.

Rights groups have also called for Burma to do more to protect the Rohingya. Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that Burmese security forces have committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against the group in the aftermath of the sectarian violence.

Who are these Rohingyas?

According to Jahiruddin Ahmed and Nazir Ahmed, former president and Secretary of Arakan Muslim Conference the Rohingyas are descendants of the inhabitants of Ruha in Afghanistan.

Some historians and Rohingya writer Mohammed Khalilur Rahman trace the history of Rohingyas way back to the 8th century CE Arabs.

The Arabs and Persians were enterprising seafarers and Islam gave a new impetus to their trade  by using sea-routes. Since the 7th century, when South-East Asian trade route fell into their hands, they controlled the maritime trade between the Red Sea and China. They carried on trade with many countries, including Arakan and Burma. From the 8th century, like those in western India, there were Arab Muslim settlements on Arakan and Chittagong coasts, and in Burma and the other eastern countries.

The Muslim settlers brought with them the religion of Islam. Without any inhibitions, they intermarried and intermixed with the native women of Arakan. The kings of Arakan who wanted to increase the population of the country encouraged the practice of intermarriage. In “Islamic Culture, Vol X, No. 3, July, 1936, p.423.” we find:

“The Muslim settlers freely intermarried and intermixed with the woman of Arakan who changed their religion and became Muslims. The practice of intermarriage was encouraged by the kings of Arakan who wanted to increase the population of the county. It was a long established Arakanese and Burmese custom to provide with wives all foreigners who were forced to make a prolonged stay in the land either by shipwreck or for commercial reasons, but no foreigner was allowed to take with him his children of such mixed marriage or his wife when he left the country.”

M.A. Ghaffar, in his work “My Activities in Parliament and Outside”, Part II, P.28. states:

“They adopted the nationality of their wives to whom they transferred their properties.”

Thus, Islam became a living force in Arakan.

In 1799, Francis Buchanan-Hamilton published an article titled “A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire.” In it, he states:

“I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan…”

After King Narameikhla (1430–1434) retained his throne with the help of the Sultan of Bengal of that time, Indian Muslims of Bengal started arriving in Rakhine.

According to another historian, Dr. Maung Maung, there is no such word as Rohingya to be found in the census survey conducted by the British in 1824. The British census of 1891 reported 58,255 Muslims in Arakan. By 1911, the Muslim population increased to 178,647.

During the British Colonial rule, a large number of Bengali farmers migrated to the fertile valleys of Arakan. The waves of migration were primarily due to the requirement of cheap labor from British India to work in the paddy fields. Immigrants from Bengal, mainly from the Chittagong region moved en masse into western townships of Arakan. Migration of Indians into Burma was not just restricted to Arakan.

A Burmese historian, Thant Myint-U writes:

“At the beginning of the 20th century, Indians were arriving in Burma at the rate of no less than a quarter million per year. The numbers rose steadily. In 1927, immigration reached its peak with 480,000 people. Rangoon outweighed New York City as the greatest immigration port in the world. This was out of a total population of only 13 million; it was equivalent to the United Kingdom today taking 2 million people a year.”

By then, in most of the large cities in Burma, Rangoon, Akyab, Bassein, Moulmein, the Indian immigrants formed a majority of the population. The indigenous Burmese felt helpless under the British rule, and reacted against the Indians with a “racism that combined feelings of superiority and fear.”

The immigration’s impact was particularly acute in Arakan, one of less populated regions. In 1939, the British authorities were aware of the long-term animosity between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingyas. They formed a special Investigation Commission led by James Ester, and Tin Tut to study the issue of Muslim immigration in the Rakhine state. The commission recommended securing the border; however, with the onset of World War II, the British retreated from Arakan.

Burmese historians like Khin Maung Saw have claimed that before 1950s, the term Rohingya has never appeared in Burmese history. This observation coincides with that of a historian Aye Chan from Kanda University of International Studies, Chiba, Japan. He states that the term Rohingya was created in 1950s by the descendants of Bengalis, who migrated into Arakan during the Colonial Era. He further argued that the term cannot be found in any historical source in any language before 1950s. However, he stated that it did not mean Muslim communities have not existed in Arakan before 1824.

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