Living in the Racial Faultline: Rohingyas Look like Bengalis but are the People of Burma

written by Abid Bahar Ph.D.

Who are the Rohingyas? An Arakani xenophob named Aye Chan says they are "Bengalis" from Bangladesh, and many of his hoodlum followers even call Rohingyas the "Talibans"; some even call them as "terrorists" perhaps because most Rohingyas are Muslims and some racist people it is easy to find all Muslims as being terrorists. However, research shows that Rohingyas look like Bengalis but aren’t Bengalis. If Rohingyas are not Bengalis, who are they? Rohingyas are a mixture of people beginning from indigenous Chandra people of pre 10th century Arakan, and also Rohingyas in them had Arab and Persian traders from the 7th century settled in Arakan, and the Bengali Sultan’s soldiers send to Arakan with General Sindi Khan to help restore Noromikhala in the mid 15th century, and finally they also had in their people Bengali slaves captured from lower Bengal during the 16th and early 17th century from raids by Mogh (Rakhine) pirates in the Bay. These flows of people from the north and west of Arakan are recorded in history.(1) These people who looked like Indians and Bengalis were scattered all around Arakan but due to their racial differences, eventually were pushed out to the Mayu frontier in the north. "Rohingya" as an official name adapted during the 50’s in the last century by its leaders to serve as a survival mechanism for its people to unitedly face the destiny of attack and expulsion by the brutal military regime and its Arakanese collaborators. However, the name "Rohingya was in use recorded by an early British historian of Burma.(2) In Arakan not surprisingly, "Rakhine" is also a new name changed from the historic name "Mogh" Most of the Rohingyas look like Bengalis because Bengalis have similar historic backgrounds as the Rohingyas have from the past. The racially motivated discrimination and expulsion of the Rohingya people has been an ongoing phenomenon for years for these people.The latest large scale push was during 1942, the 1978 and 1993 and even now in a smaller scale.(3)

Historically speaking, Arakan was an Indian land but occupied by the racially mongoloid people during the 11th century removing the Indian Chandra dynasty. The dark skinned Rohingyas called by the Rakhines as "Kalas" are the indigenous Rohingyas. Rohingyas look like Bengalis but aren’t Bengalis. Like the Rakhines (moghs) are racially like Burmese, so racially Rohingyas are like Bengalis. This is clearly because Arakan is a racial faultline. It is for this reason that there are Rakhines, Chakmas, Thanchaingas, Moghs, who are racially mongoloid people in Bangladesh. They are now Bangladeshi citizens. In contrast the Rohingyas in Arakan, Burma were denied of their citizenship in the 1982 constitutional reform by the racist military government of Burma. This change was done unfortunately (on record) with the help of some Arakani xenophobs like Aye Kyaw, Aye Chan and Ashin Nayaka who enjoy freedom and democracy in abroad but keep racist skeletons at home in Arakan; calling the Rohingya people as the "Influx Viruses". In this act of suffering of a people, causing genocide and crime against humanity, the xenophobes even call themselves as democrats-ofcourse, it is acceptable in Burma to the military’s Burmese way to democracy. Thus Rohingya issue remains unresolved and the suffering of these racially different Burmese people living in the faultline continues.


(1) O, Malley, Chittagong Gazettier, p.20, Abid Bahar, Burma’s Missing Dots, p.54, D.H.L. Hall, Burma, 37, Phayre, History of Burma, p. 172
(2) Francis Buchanon,"A Comparative vocabulary of some of the languages spoken, in the Burmese empire"SOAS, p. 40-57.
(3) Abid Bahar, Burma’s Missing Dots, 23-50.
(4) Abid Bahar, Dynamics of Ethnic Relations in Burmese Society. An Unpublished thesis on Burma 1982.

(Dr. Abid Bahar is a playwright and public speaker teaches in Canada)

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