The Traditional Demand of the Rohingya of North Arakan (3)
The Demands of Mujahid and the Government’s Reactions
By Aman Ullah
“Man is distinguished from animal by the struggle for recognition.” Hegel
Why Mujahid Movement in Arakan?
Up to 1923 Burma was part of British India under Lieutenant Governor. After the Round Table Conference in London, in accordance with the counsel of Simon Commission, Burma was separated from British India in 1937, under the Indian Act of 1935. Dr. Ba Maw was the first Prime Minister of British Burma and later in 1939, U Saw (Galoon U Saw), the killer of Gen Aung San and his men, also became Prime Minister. After becoming Prime Minister U Saw declared that, “Until and unless the Muslims of Arakan cannot prove that their grandfather or grandmother has the real Burma blood, they will be treated as foreigners. That’s mean that if the flow of Burma blood is not found in them, they will be deprived their civic rights.
In 1942, at the instigation of Thakin Party men, gangs of Buddhist Arakanese in the south part of Arakan, where Buddhists constitute a majority, raided Muslim villages and thousands of innocent Muslims were placed on the point of sword. They perpetrated brutal torture on the Muslim women and the tender infants were places on the point of spares. An atmosphere of terror was created by them. The horror and massacre of this fight were so great that being quite unable to stand it. As a result about 100,000 of Muslims were killed and rendering 500,000 homeless. About 80,000 fled to Bengal and took shelter in Refugee camps of Chittagong and Rangpur.
A conspiracy was fabricated to deprive Rohingya Muslims of their right to vote in the Legislative Council election in 1947 labeling them as foreigners, alien and intruders and a large number of Muslims’ names were removed from the voters list. It was all done in the sight of world community. The Jamiat resisted the evil move and eventually became able to restore a plausible numbers of their names in the voter list. Mr. Sultan Ahmad President of Jamiat and his deputy Mr. Abdul Ghaffar was elected members in the Legislative Council to the Burma.
In the mean time, there was a rumor afoot that the Muslims of Arakan border would be shifted to Central Burma and Magh would be placed in their place. The wounds of 1942 massacre were yet to be healed when the Muslims were meted out step-motherly treatment by the Burmans in 1947. Added to these grievances, the new harassment and atrocities inflicted upon the Muslims were just like throwing them from frying pan to the fire. The Muslims were becoming more certain now that their existence and survival is in great danger.
Considering their insecurity and uncertainty of their position, they strongly felt that they need a strong political body by which they may collectively face for their existence and survival. However, as there was no peaceful and secure atmosphere were found for them anywhere in Burma, they were compelled to organize the Mujahid Party. Though under the unavoidable circumstances and undue pressure on them, they have been compelled to take arms, they have definitely moral ways pertaining to their political demands. They declared their seven points political demands including; to form an Autonomous Muslims State named North Arakan with Buthidaung, Rathidaung and Maungdaw taking the region from the western part of Kaladan River and eastern part of Naf River. This region will remain under the Union of Burma.
Their Seven-Point Demands
The Mujahid Party, which was formed at Dabbori Chaung village of Buthidaung Towship declared the following seven-point demands on August 29, 1947. As it was declared at Dabbori Chaung, it was known as Dabbori Chaung Declaration.
1. To from an Autonomous Muslims State named North Arakan with Buthidaung, Rathidaung and Maungdaw taking the region from the western part of Kaladan River and eastern part of Naf River. This region will remain under the Union of Burma.
2. To formed an Army named North Arakan Muslim Regiment by the help of those Muslim youths who possess Military Training or Military Experience in North Arakan. The Muslim youths of this regiment will sacrifice their lives for an inch of land in the case of foreign attack.
3. Urdu must be accepted as a regional language and a medium of instruction of North Arakan. But Burmese Language will remain compulsory as a national language.
4. Responsible Government Officials for North Arakan State must be appointed from the local Muslims. But a Burmese advisor on behalf of the Central Government may remain in this region.
5. The non-Muslim minority community of the North Arakan will have the similar fair treatment like other Muslim minority of other parts of Burma.
6. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Finance, and Commerce will remain directly under the Central Government. As regards the rest, what should remain under the local authority should be decided by the joint discussion of the Central and Local representatives and concurrently shared by both the Center and Local Authority.
7. Subject to the acceptance of the above conditions by the Burmese Government, a Pact will be signed by the Mujahid Representatives and the Burmese Government. But before the signing of the Pact, a General Amnesty must be announced to the other Muslim Political Leaders along with the Mujahid Party of North Arakan. Thereupon in accordance with the Section II of the Pact, the Mujahids known as Muslim Regiment of North Arakan will have the same privilege like the National Army of Burma, and they will be included in the Burma Regular Army as Territorial Force of North Arakan.
The Reactions of the Government
To consider their seven-point demands there were discussions on 3 occasions between the Government representatives and the Mujahideen leaders.
• Mr. Abul Bashar, a former Township Officer and later an elected M.P, was sent by the Government to Thamy to discuss with Mujahids and the Mujahideen submitted their seven-point demands to him.
• Some leading local persons along with the North Arakan Muslim Members of Parliament were sent to Thamy Village of Buthidaung for mutual exchange of ways and means. They proposed that the demands of Mujahideen would be considered if they leave off arms. Whereas, the Mujahideen representative did not want to do it till the acceptance of their demands.
• Mr. Sultan Ahmed M.P and Mr. Abdul Gaffer M.P were sent to Fakira Bazar in Maungdaw. But they also had to return without success.
In February 1950, the then Prime Minister U Nu, Minister of Minority Affairs U Aung Zan Wai accompanying the Pakistan Ambassador in Burma Sardar Aurangzeb came to Maungdaw in order to hold discussion o the seven-point demands of the Muslims of North Arakan and summoned the representatives who crossed from Teknaf by the scouts. U Nu gave assurance to them that if they came to the legal fold, the Central Government itself would consider their demands. He also gave assurance to those who took refuge in the East Pakistan that a welfare officer would be appointed in order to assist them and the government would take the task of rehabilitation of the refugees. If any refugee returned to the land within specific time, they would not be put into troubles by the Immigration Act; complaints of such nature would remain postponed.
None of such assurances were ever entertained. On the other hand, the new Burmese administration formed a frontier security force known as Burma Territorial Force (BTF) with local recruits since 1949. In Arakan 90% of the BTF was manned with Arakanese Buddhists particularly those who are sworn enemies of the Muslims. The BTF under the direction of the Deputy Commissioner of Akyab district, Kyaw U, a Magh, unleashed a reign of terror in the whole north Arakan. Muslim men, women and children were mowed down by machine gun fire. Hundreds of intellectuals, village elders and Ulema were killed like dogs and rats. Almost all Muslim villages were razed to the ground. The BTF massacre triggered refugee exodus into the then East Pakistan numbering more than 50,000 people.
As the demands of the Muslims to correct the injustices, and allow them to live as Burmese citizens according to the law, and not to subject them to arbitrariness and tyranny, were not listened the Mujahid insurrection gained momentum and spread quickly. In June, 1949 the 26th battalion, Union Military Police, stationed in Arakan mutinied and together with communists and PVO brought the fall of Kyaukpyu and Sandoway both being district headquarters. Thus government control was reduced to the port of Akyab only, whereas the Mujahids were in possession of all of north Arakan, and other groups of Arakanese Buddhist rebels had other districts in their control.
Thus, while the central government was busy putting down rebellion that broke out in other places in Burma and was unable to devote itself to Arakan then the government made some attempts to negotiate with the rebels.
What the Muslims of North Arakan achieved by the Mujahid movement?
By dint of the pressure Mujahid movement and to get rid from it, the Central Government had compelled to do the followings: –
• On 25th Sept. 1954 at 8:00 p. m., the then Prime minister of Burma, U Nu, in his radio speech to the nation declared Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic community. All basic rights of Rohingyas had been restored to certain extent. The government tried to convince the Muslim leaders and Parliament members that it was a futile exercise to go on rebellion as the rights of Rohingyas had been restored.
• Prime Minister U Nu and Defence minister U Ba Swe visited Buthidaung and Maungdaw towns in 1959. They held big political rallies in those towns where they spoke of recognising Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic community of Burma like the Shan, Kachin and Karen. They also promised equal rights to them as citizens of Burma.
• On 1 May 1961 the Government created the Mayu Frontier Administration, area covering Maungdaw, Buthidaung and western part of Rathidaung Townships under the Military administration. It was done instead of establishing a ‘Muslim National Area’ in north Arakan with substantial local autonomy but not autonomous rule.
• A special police force in the name of Mayu Ray was raised with the recruits from local Muslims. The situation of law and order were improved. Economic, education, health improvement were done by the Frontier Administration. It was only administration that favored the wellbeing of the Rohingya s during the post Independent Burma.
• Rohingya Language was aired by the Burmese Broadcasting Service (BBS) twice a week till 24th October 1965. Rohingya Representatives were invited to 12 February Union Day celebration in every year.