Burma Times Special Report: July 01, 2015
As the mid day sun shines fiercely overhead, five old men stroll slowly through the sprawling refugee camp of Nayapara in Bangladesh. In the twilight years of their lives, they are living witness to the sad history of the Rohingya Muslims. It is an experience they want to share with the younger generation.
“When I was young, I went to Akyab once,” says 85 year Abdul Karim. But with changing times, it became impossible to make that journey again. “Once we could go wherever we wanted to, of course that was a long time back.Abdul says that in those days, Muslims had plenty of lands.
“I also prayed in a mosque there that dates back from 1626,” says 74 year Noor Ahmed. The old men say that there are signs of Muslim civilization dating back from centuries. “Then how is it they say we are illegal immigrants in the country,” says Noor.
“Once upon a time there were plenty of Rakhine people in Jadimura and Teknaf,” says 90 year Noor Salam. “Where do you think they all went,” says Salam. He says that while the Barua Buddhists and other Buddhists from the Chittagon Hill Tracts area in Bangladesh still maintain the same presence as before, the Rakhine Buddhists have diminished in number. “Cross into Arakan and you will find them,” he says.
78 year Shukkur says, “Once upon a time, I had Rakhine friends, back in Arakan. They were friendly but they used to say that Muslims have to leave Arakan one day. When I asked them why, they just smiled. Then we went back to having fun together. Now I understand what they were saying.”
According to 87 year Nasir Ahmed, this is all a master plan by the Burmese government. He says, “It has all been planned out years ago. They wanted to trade the Muslim population of Arakan. They wanted to drive us out all using any means possible. Very soon they will succeed. In a few years there will not be any Muslims left in Arakan.”