Recently, the world was horrified and millions of people are still traumatised by the sheer wickedness and absolute inhumanity meted out to the Rohingya, an ethnic group classified as the “world’s most persecuted minority” and “Palestinians of Asia.” They constitute just 9% of the Buddhist-dominated country of Myanmar.
Gory videos and blood-chilling images of horrible display of extreme wickedness fill the internet. A big mosque is invaded here and the terrified Muslims are shot and clobbered to death. An enthusiastic crowd under the watch of the security forces burns a person alive in another clip. There, in an open pool of muddy water, men are lined up with only their heads out in a specially designed cage that allows a man to hit those gasping for breath on their heads with a rod.
The persecution of the Rohingya is historical but the current system of repression owes itself partly to British rule which ended in 1948. When the military seized power in 1962, the Rohingya became the tools with which the rulers would seek legitimacy. They waged physical and psychological wars against the Rohingya, whose religious identity was exploited to pursue and project populist Buddhist nationalism.
In 1974, the Rohingya were classified foreigners and in 1982, the Citizenship Law was enacted effectively denying them citizenship and right to live in Myanmar. They became basically stateless except those who could provide some bogus evidence that is impossible to obtain: document to the effect that they had lived in the country before the British occupation of Rakhine State in 1823.
All the while, the 1.1 million people were being massacred as a systematic erasure of Rohingya as an identity was being pursued through outright denial of existence, branding as “aliens” and emotive name-calling as “Bengali Muslims.” The Rohingya villages are burnt, their women and daughters are raped and their men are killed and disappeared at will.
Daily life experiences of the Rohingya even before the current wave of violence include restricted movement, arbitrary and extortionist taxation, land confiscation, eviction and house destruction, restriction on marriage and access to education. The Rohingya are considered only good for forced labour on roads and military camps. Social and political structures created around them make them to be helpless, hapless and powerless. They are denied, denigrated and dehumanised by both government and people. Their only crime is being Rohingya and Muslim.
The traumatised Rohingya have been subjected to increased persecution and restriction since the outbreak of another violence in 2012. Due to the latest military crackdown, more than 400,000 people have fled, seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. The United Nations has called it the “ethnic cleansing of Rohingya.”
One truth people do not realise is that the persecution and torture of human beings diminishes our humanity, including the perpetrators. By allowing a system where people are attacked because of their identity, we are legitimising atrocities and paving way for social strife. Life is sacred and we are not more human than those we label and dehumanise.
Until we all condemn inhumanity and abuses by appreciating our common humanity, our claim to civilisation will still remain empty. We are all Rohingya and we are all potential victims of brutality, the type of which was witnessed in the abuse of the alleged members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by some men in uniform. The abuse of making people roll in mud water is an affront to our shared humanity regardless of whether we oppose or support Nnamdi Kanu’s shenanigans.
It is legitimate that we have different ethnic and religious identities. It is normal that we have differences in views and opinions. But because we are human, we should always be humane in dealing with people who are opposed to us. All human beings deserve being treated with dignity, a right that being human confers on us. Even animals should be spared of brutality and animal rights are also right.
We are all Rohingya as the insecurity of others is a threat to our own security. We are all Rohingya because like us they also have blood in their veins. The royal and the slave were born through the same process. No one should be made to beg for their life by a mob or targeted simply because he belongs to an ethnic group or religion.
Therefore, whether we are in peace or in conflict with others, we should always uphold the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.