Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bangladeshi ISI agent uses Facebook to trap Lt Col

A Lieutenant Colonel is facing charges of establishing unauthorised contacts on Facebook with a Bangladeshi woman, suspected to be an ISI agent, who had earlier honey-trapped an Indian officer in Dhaka last year. 

The Armoured Corps officer deployed in Suratgarh district of Rajasthan is facing a Court of Inquiry (CoI) for allegedly establishing contacts with the Bangladeshi woman on Facebook, Army sources said here on Wednesday. 

They said the CoI was ordered after the Intelligence Bureau personnel noticed that the officer was regularly in touch with the Bangladeshi woman on Facebook and chatting with her. 

Army sources said the officer had not established any physical contact with the woman and it was limited only in the cyber domain. 

However, reports suggested the officer was honeytrapped by the Bangladeshi woman. He was arrested along with the woman, suspected to be working for a foreign spy agency, from a city hotel in May on a tip-off from the external intelligence agencies. 

The same woman by the name of Sheeba was allegedly involved in honeytrapping of another Lt Col during his posting in Bangladesh and then blackmailed by ISI which reportedly asked him to spy for Pakistan. 

The Infantry officer was doing his Staff College course in Bangladesh's Military Academy in Dhaka. 

The officer was reportedly honey-trapped by the woman whom he had met at a party in Dhaka and was then later approached by agents of Pakistan's intelligence agency. 

Armed with alleged tapes of the officer and the woman together, the officer was asked by ISI agents to spy for Pakistan.


Indian RAW operations in South Asian countries

India’s premier intelligence outfit Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’s operations against the regional countries are conducted with great professional skill and expertise. Central to the operations is the establishment of a huge network inside the target countries. It uses and targets political dissent, ethnic divisions, economic backwardness and criminal elements within these states to foment subversion, terrorism and sabotage.
Having thus created the conducive environments, RAW stage-manage future events in these countries in such a way that military intervention appears a natural concomitant of the events. In most cases, RAW’s hand remains hidden, but more often that not target countries soon begin unearthing those “hidden hand”. A brief expose of RAW’s operations in neighboring countries would reveal the full expanse of its regional ambitions ( Open Secrets. India’s Intelligence Unveiled by M K Dhar. Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2005).
Indian intelligence agencies were involved in Bangladesh since early 1960s.In fact, the main purpose of raising RAW in 1968 was to organise covert operations in Bangladesh. As early as in 1968, RAW was given a green signal to begin mobilising all its resources for the impending surgical intervention in erstwhile East Pakistan. When in July 1971 General Manekshaw told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the army would not be ready till December to intervene in Bangladesh, she quickly turned to RAW for help. RAW was ready. Its officers used Bengali refugees to set up Mukti Bahini. Using this outfit as a cover, Indian military sneaked deep into Bangladesh. The story of Mukti Bahini and RAW’s role in its organisation and training is now well-known. RAW never concealed its Bangladesh operations. Interested readers may have details in Asoka Raina’s Inside RAW: the story of India’s Secret Service published by Vikas Publishing House of New Delhi.

It was partly to put an end to the activities of the ISI in India’s North-East from East Pakistan that Indira Gandhi decided to assist the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan in their efforts to separate from Pakistan and achieve an independent State to be called Bangladesh.

The IB before 1968 and the R&AW thereafter had built up a network of relationships with many political leaders and Government officials of East Pakistan.

The R&AW’s role was five-fold: Provision of intelligence to the policy-makers and the armed forces; to train the Bengali freedom fighters in clandestine training camps; to network with Bengali public servants from East Pakistan posted in West Pakistan and in Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad and persuade them to co-operate with the freedom-fighters and to help in the freedom struggle by providing intelligence; to mount a special operation in the CHT against the sanctuaries and training camps of the Naga and Mizo hostiles;and to organize a psychological warfare (PSYWAR) campaign against the Pakistani rulers by disseminating reports about the massacres of the Bengalis in East Pakistan and the exodus of refugees.(Role of RAW in Liberation of Bangladesh By B Raman,

An American report confirmed RAW was directly involved in the secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh and is currently engaged in similar activities. RAW has a long history of activity in Bangladesh supporting both secular forces and the area’s Hindu minority masterminding the break up of Pakistan in 1971(

The main objective of the RAW is to create internal trouble in neighbouring countries and take benefit from the trouble that the neighbouring countries face(Machination of RAW in South Asia and Movement of RAW in Nepal/ by Dr Shastra Dutta Pant).

The analysis of Indian foreign policy trends shows that the Indian governments had adopted an aggressive attitude and covert means for attaining its two permanent foreign policy goals: (a) to attain a hegemonic position in South Asia; (b) to play a role in international system based on Kautilyan principles. Indian governments have used intelligence agencies, not only for monitoring the activities of neighbouring States, but also as a covert forward base to achieve its goals and to implement its hegemonic policies in the region. Over the years RAW become an important instrument for promoting the hegemonic influence of India in the Asian region and has also played a significant role in enhancing India’s image as an important international actor. RAW has now acquired the important role of being the covert instrument of Indian national power and will remain decisive actor in furthering Indian interests and future Indian hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Ever since the partition of the sub-continent India has been openly meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs by contriving internal strife and conflicts through RAW to destabilise the successive legitimate governments and prop up puppet regimes which would be more amenable Indian machinations. Armed insurrections were sponsored and abetted by RAW and later requests for military assistance to control these were managed through pro-India leaders. India has been aiding and inciting the Nepalese dissidents to collaborate with the Nepali Congress. RAW: An Instrument Of Indian Imperialism by Isha Khan, (

India has been openly meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs by contriving internal strife and conflicts through RAW to destabilize the successive legitimate governments & prop up puppet regimes which would be more amenable Indian mechanization. Armed insurrections were sponsored and abetted by RAW and later requests for military assistance to control these were managed through pro-India leaders. India has been aiding & inciting the Nepalese to collaborate with the Nepali Congress. For this they were supplied arms whenever the king or the Nepalese Government appeared to be drifting away from the Indian dictates & impinging on Indian hegemonic designs in the region. In fact under the garb of democratization process, the Maoists were actively encouraged by the RAW to collect arms to resort to open rebellion against the legitimate Nepalese governments( RAW The Rascal by Prem Raj

Indian sources, including journalists, have put on record how much before 1971 RAW had established the network of a separatist movement through ‘cells’ and military training camps in Indian territory adjoining Bangladesh. The Mukti Bahini were all in place organisationally to take advantage of the political trouble in 1971 and carry out acts of sabotage against communication lines so that Indian forces simply marched in at the ‘right’ time. RAW agents provided valuable information as well as acting as an advance guard for conducting unconventional guerrilla acts against the Pakistani defence forces.

A Mukti Bahini activist, Zainal Abedin, has written a revealing book which includes his personal experience in Indian training camps, entitled RAW and Bangladesh. It was the post-fall of Dhaka period which exposed the Indians’ true intentions and made Abedin realise that It was evident from the conduct of the Indian Army that they treated Bangladesh as a colony … It is now evident that India had helped the creation of Bangladesh with the aim that it would be a step forward towards the total Indian subjugation. RAW has since been seeking to create Indian dominance culturally, ideologically and economically in Bangladesh. Following the independence of Bangladesh‚ it signed a seven-point secret treaty with India. According to the treaty‚ all types of employees including civil employees appointed during the Bangladesh civil war should be granted permanent status‚ other employees also could be appointed only by the Indian administrative service‚ a certain number of Indian soldiers will continue to remain in Bangladesh despite independence‚ Bangladesh will not have its own army‚ for its internal security‚ it will have only militias from among the freedom fighters who will work under the Indian military command‚ the trade between the two countries will be kept open and free‚ and matters pertaining to foreign affairs will be dealt only after close consultation with the Indian foreign ministry.

The treaty had two main points. India will have its control over foreign and defence matters and Bangladesh would open its market for Indian products. Even after this‚ Indian newspapers continued to lobby for the merger of Bangladesh into India.If European countries can become a united Europe‚ why can’t India go to status-quo-ante‚ or the situation prior to 1947?[31] Such were the views expressed in those newspapers(RAW in the Freedom Struggle of Bangladesh, Shastra Dutta Pant,

In addition, RAW had also created another insurgency outfit, Shanti Bahini. This force comprises the Chittagong Hill Tracts Hindu and Buddhists tribesmen (the Chakmas) and the intention is to bleed the Bengali military and keep the border area tense( India’s unconventional war strategy by Dr Shireen Mazari,

The Chakma guerrillas had closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of govt in 1975, contacted the RAW. The Chakmas offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian govt in lieu of asylum. This offer was accepted (Inside RAW : The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, Vikas Publishers, New Delhi, 1981, pp.86-87).

In 1975, the RAW was instructed to assist the Chakma rebels with arms, supplies , bases and training. Training was conducted in the border camps in Tripura but specialized training was imparted at Chakrata near Dehra Doon. Shantu Larma’s Shanti Bahini members were flown to Chakrata and then sent back to Tripura to infiltrate into Chittagong Hill Tracts. A RAW office and its operatives at Agartala monitored the progress of the trainees. In 1976, the Shanti Bahini launched its first attack on the Bangladesh force. A new insurgency had been born and India’s secret war in the hills of Bangladesh had begun ( South Asia’s Fractured Frontier, by Binalaksmi Nepram, Mittal Pablishers, New Delhi, 2002, pp-153).

The RAW was involved in training rebels of Chakma tribes and Shanti Bahini to carry out subversive activities in Bangladesh (RAW’s role in Furthering India’s Foreign Policy, The New Nation, Dhaka, 31 August 1994). The Indian intelligence had collaborated the armed rebels of Chittagong Hill Tracts to destabilise the region ( Indo-Bangladesh Relation, Motiur Rahman, daily Prothom Alo, 10 December 2002).

RAW retained a keen interest in Bangladesh even after its independence. Mr. Subramaniam Swamy, Janata Dal MP, a close associate of Morarji Desai said that Rameswar Nath Kao, former Chief of RAW, and Shankaran Nair upset about Sheikh Mujib’s assassination chalked a plot to kill General Ziaur Rahman. However, when Morarji Desai came into power in 1977 he was indignant at RAW’s role in Bangladesh and ordered operations in Bangladesh to be called off; but by then RAW had already gone too far. General Zia continued to be in power for quite some time but he was assassinated after Indira Gandhi returned to power, though she denied her involvement in his assassination ( Weekly Sunday, Calcutta,18 September, 1988 ).

It also unleashed a well-organized plan of psychological warfare and dissension among the political parties and religious sects, control of media, denial of river waters, and propping up a host of disputes in order to keep Bangladesh under a constant political and socio-economic pressure ( “ RAW and Bangladesh” by Mohammad Zainal Abedin, November 1995, RAW In Bangladesh: Portrait of an Aggressive Intelligence, by Abu Rushd, Dhaka ).

RAW continues keeping effective contacts with the political personalities, parties and election process.

The Economist of London recently wrote: ‘Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed ( ).

A couple of years back an Indian journalist Rajesh Joshi had reported that a political party of a neighbouring country received a fund of Rupees 4.5 crore from RAW( Research and Analysis Wing, India’s premier intelligence outfit) in 1991 but the party was defeated (The Indian Express, 28 April 1991). It may be mentioned here that elections were only held in Bangladesh in 1991 in the subcontinent and AL was defeated in that election. Years later weekly Sugandha had a similar story on 24 April 1996.

Political parties, personalities and various outfits had received Indian fund, assistance, training etc in not too distant past. Some references:

‘The involvement of RAW in East Pakistan is said to date from the 1960s, when RAW supported Mujibur Rahman, leading up to his general election victory in 1970’ (

‘The Bangla Desh Operation began a year before the actual operation was underway. Even when the world did get a whiff of it in the shape of the Mukti Bahani, many remained unaware of RAW’s involvement. By 1968 Indian operatives had already been in contact with the Mujib faction. Meetings convened in Agartala during 1962-63, between the IB foreign desk operatives ( Sankaran Nair) and the Mujib faction’ ( Asoka Raina in “Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service”,Vikas Publishing, New Delhi,1981. Also in “RAW in the Freedom Struggle of Bangladesh” by Dr Shastra Dutta Pant (

‘ The RAW created ‘Mujib Bahini’, a special force during liberation war. Mujib Bahini was trained at the headquarters of the Aviation Research Center, RAW’s special outfit at Chakrata near Dehradun. The force was headed by Sirajul Alam Khan,Tofael Ahmed, Abdur Razzzak and Fazlul Huq Moni. After the war most members joined Rakkhi Bahini and JSD’ ( Major General Sujan Singh Uban in his “ Phatoms of Chittagong; The Fifth Army in Bangladesh”, Allied Publishers, 1985, New Delhi).

‘Kaderia Bahini’s Tiger Siddiqui , who had contacts with the RAW crossed over the border in 1975.The Indian govt’s support to Siddiqui is reported to have continued via RAW’ (Asoka Raina in “Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service”,Vikas Publishing, New Delhi,1981).

The Chakma guerrillas had closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of govt in 1975, contacted the RAW and offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian govt in lieu of assylum. This offer was accepted (Inside RAW : The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, pp.86-87). The Indian intelligence had collaborated the armed rebels of Chittagong Hill Tracts to destabilise the region ( Indo-Bangladesh Relation, Motiur Rahman, daily Prothom Alo, 10 December 2002).

BY :   Isha Khan.

India’s Blood-Stained Democracy

LAST September, a lawmaker in Indian-controlled Kashmir stood up in the state’s legislative assembly and spoke of a valley filled with human carcasses near his home constituency in the mountains: “In our area, there are big gorges, where there are the bones of several hundred people who were eaten by crows.” 

I read about this in faraway London and was filled with a chill — I had written of a similar valley, a fictional one, in my novel about the lost boys of Kashmir. The assembly was debating a report on the uncovering of more than 2,000 unmarked and mass graves not far from the Line of Control that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The report, by India’s government-appointed State Human Rights Commission, marked the first official acknowledgment of the presence of mass graves. More significantly, the report found that civilians, potentially the victims of extrajudicial killings, may be buried at some of the sites. 

Corpses were brought in by the truckload and buried on an industrial scale. The report cataloged 2,156 bullet-riddled bodies found in mountain graves and called for an inquiry to identify them. Many were men described as “unidentified militants” killed in fighting with soldiers during the armed rebellion against Indian rule during the 1990s, but according to the report, more than 500 were local residents. “There is every probability,” the report concluded, that the graves might “contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,” a euphemism for people who have been detained, abducted, taken away by armed forces or the police, often without charge or conviction, and never seen again. 

Had the graves been found under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound in Libya or in the rubble of Homs in Syria, there surely would have been an uproar. But when over 2,000 skeletons appear in the conflict-ridden backyard of the world’s largest democracy, no one bats an eye. While the West proselytizes democracy and respect for human rights, sometimes going so far as to cheerlead cavalier military interventions to remove repressive regimes, how can it reconcile its humanitarianism with such brazen disregard for the right to life in Kashmir? Have we come to accept that there are different benchmarks for justice in democracies and autocracies? Are mass graves unearthed in democratic India somehow less offensive? 

The Indian government has long been intransigent on the issue of Kashmir — preferring to blame Pakistan for fomenting violence rather than address Kashmiris’ legitimate aspirations for freedom or honor its own promises to resolve the issue according to the wishes of Kashmiri people and investigate the crimes of its army. And almost a year after the human rights commission issued its report on mass graves, the Indian state continues to remain indifferent to evidence of possible crimes against humanity. As a believer in a moral universe, I expected better. But it is an all too familiar pattern. 

In March 2000, a day before President Bill Clinton visited India, about 35 Kashmiri Sikhs were massacred by unidentified gunmen in the village of Chattisinghpora, 50 miles from the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar. Soon after, L. K. Advani, then India’s home minister, declared that the terrorists responsible for the killings had been shot dead in an “encounter” with the Indian Army. But the truth turned out to be more sinister. Under pressure from human rights groups and relatives, the bodies of the so-called terrorists were exhumed, and after a couple of botched investigations in which DNA samples were fudged, it was revealed that the dead men were innocent Kashmiris. 

It took nearly 12 years — primarily because of the Indian government’s refusal to prosecute those involved in the murders — to reach the Supreme Court of India. On May 1, in a widely criticized decision, the court left it to the army to decide how to proceed, and the army has opted for a court-martial rather than a transparent civilian trial. In the eyes of Pervez Imroz, a Kashmiri lawyer and civil rights activist, the court’s decision “further emboldens the security forces” and strengthens “a process that has appeared to never favor the victims.” 

But the victims have not forgotten Kashmir’s estimated 8,000 “disappeared.” Perhaps the most telling reminder is the women who stage a symbolic protest every month in a Srinagar park like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, who protested weekly after their children became “desaparecidos” under the Argentine dictatorship of 1976-83. Each woman wears a headband bearing a blank photo — steadfastly refusing to forget in the face of the Indian government’s callous and immoral indifference. 

IN the long and bloody narrative of India’s injustices in Kashmir, there come seasons that are etched in the public consciousness as collective epitaphs of mourning and loss. In the summer of 2010, there was a mass uprising against Indian rule in Kashmir — an Arab Spring before the Arab Spring. 

It came after police killed a teenager; thousands of people came out into the streets across Kashmir. The Indian paramilitary forces and police yet again reacted with brute force, keeping the region under virtual siege for over two months and killing 120 people, many of them teenagers. The youngest, Sameer Rah, not even 10, was beaten to death by irate paramilitaries. The provincial government promised “speedy justice.” But once again, no one has been charged with these killings, let alone convicted of them. 

The Indian government must do what may seem inconceivable to the hawks in the military establishment but is long overdue. Before it can even begin to contemplate negotiating a lasting political solution in consultation with Kashmiris it must act to deliver justice — for the parents of the disappeared; for the young lives brutally extinguished in 2010; for the innocent dead stealthily buried in unmarked graves in the mountains; for the Kashmiris languishing in Indian prisons without any legal recourse; for the exiled Kashmiri Hindu Pandits who fled in 1990 after some were targeted and killed by militants; and for the mother of Sameer Rah, who still doesn’t know why her young son was bludgeoned to death and his body left by a curb. 


The Hidden Face of Burma Exposed

Pictures and Video arriving from Burma about the recent unabated massacre of civilians shows something unusual that in the past use to remain unexposed. We use to see only refugee exoduses in Bangladesh and Thailand. However, in the June 2012 massacre of the Rohingyas, we began to see burning houses and Rohingya dead bodies mostly killed by machetes.  How could this happen when there was the police, NASAKA and there was also military presence to protect its citizens? Well, there is the problem: In 1982 Ne Win government by passing a constitutional Act declared Rohingyas as the non citizens of Burma. So in this crisis the government forces were protecting its Rakhine citizens but not the Rohingyas. In addition to this, the irony is that when the many name sake democratic movement leaders had been fighting against the military, the black law of 1982 was neither revoked nor condemned. Due to that in the recent massacre of the Rohingya, we see from the top military leadership, down to NASAKA, and the Rakhine police, also in the civilian front RNDP and even some democracy movement leaders closely working with Aung San Suu Kui, surprisingly took their anti-Rohingya stands and considered Rohingyas as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. 

Fortunately, contemporary research on Rohingya origins show Rohingyas are the people of Burma.  It turned out to be that it is not so much about their origins that mattered, it is about Burmese intolerance to its ethnic minorities. More so it is with Rohingyas who live in the Arakan province, a borderland of Burma with Bangladesh. Rohingyas are also racially, culturally and religiously different from the Burmese mainstream mongoloid Rakhine-Burmese stock. This is the hidden face of racism in Burma.

It seems that racism in Burma is more than skin deep. Burma’s new military backed government, the wolf in ship’s skin also continues to call and treat Rohingyas as the noncitizens of Burma. It has been doing it in compliance with the 1982, in the name of fighting the “illegals.” Following this definition , government is not actually doing anything wrong, it is only fighting against “intruders” into Burma who according to the authority came to Burma after 1824. This is different from Aung San’s and U Nu’s understanding of the Rohingya as Burmese people. .Furthermore, in the present time, I am sure the scared little Rohingya children escaping Burma with their parents could not understand how could they enter Burma after 1824. Fortunately, history proves over and again that Rohingyas didn’t migrate to Arakan from Bengal, they were already there from the 8th century, long before the Rakhine settlement in Arakan from 10th century.(1)

Historic Burmese Invasions of Arakan

Contrary to the xenophobic understanding that Rohingyas are intruders from Bangladesh into Burma, we see, successive Burmese invasions of Arakan in the past that actually led to the settlements of nonBengali people in Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh. Arakan known in Bengal as the “mogher mulluk”(land of the lawless Moghs) wouldn’t be the choice of Bengalis to settle there. On the other hand all the tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Rohingya settlements in Southern Chittagong had Arakanese origin.(2) The most recent Arakanese settlement in Bangladesh are the Rakhines in Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh who settled there during the British period.

It is also true that it is the colonial legacy that there is perhaps not a single nation state on earth emerged after the colonial rule, where nations had a homogenous ethnic or racial group. Rohingyas of Burma are no exception to this problem in Burma.(3)

The Legacy of Rakhine Hoodlums

In Arakan state home of the Rakhine and Rohingyas, Rakhines use their own self righteous logic that the land belongs to them only.

The recent anti Rohingya outbursts in the media by mostly Rakhine xenophobes, some of whom sought asylum in the West by complaining about the military government at home are seen loud in denying the Rohingya’s Burmese citizenship. The denial and attack by hoodlums on the Rohingyas goes on for decades.

This latest Rohingya massacre shows how half a century’s long tradition of Ne Win’s rule by fanning racism took strong foothold in Burma in general and in the Arakan state in particular. By extension, we also see this time how successful the Rakhine monk and the layman have been to keep Burma on their side by hijacking the Rohingya issue. It is evident from the reports of developments that the success was made possible in the name of saving Buddhism. This is also evident in the angry comments made by Rakhine Buddhist loyalists in the print media.(4)

The Machete Massacre.

In the recent history of racism in Arakan, beginning from the early signs of Rohingya genocide when we recounted Aye Chan’s characterization of the Rohingyas as “Influx Viruses” to the the recent June 2012 machete massacre, we can see how meticulously the pogrom was carried out by the Rakhine leaders with support from the vast network in the Rakhine population with the help of Burmese government fighting the “intruders”. The military’s past record in the 1978 and 1991 and its continued denial of the Rohingya people’s citizenship rights is an undeniable guide to its involvement. (5)

Like in the past, the military’s denials to give free access to foreign media or international observers, but through some leaked sources  we see the faces of bloodied dead bodies, mostly killed by machetes, in one picture even a monk holding a gun, another monk dancing around a fire, this time, due to the available modern technology, the hidden face of Burma in Arakan is enough exposed. Like in Rwanda, in Burma as well, it was in broad light, that machetes and guns were used to kill the Rohingya. In the mean time, when the tragedy was unfolding, in Bangladesh PM Hasina has been witch hunting against Jamat was unwilling to allow the fleeing Rohingyas enter Bangladesh territory. The genocide began in small scale now continues in full swing. (6)

In the mean time, the West has been miserably fooled by the Burmese military backed government’s cat and mouse policy. This came as a promise to allowing democracy in Burma. The West in its wait and see policy also hopes that one day when Suu Kyi comes to power, she will allow the hungry entrepreneurs free access to exploit Burma’s natural resources. In reality though, every indication shows, it is never going to happen but only until the military bases that procreates racism for a divide and rule policy in Burma have drone attacks by the Western super powers coming from the sky and by land attack from Thailand and Bangladesh. This is likely to happen because Burma has both oil and its rich natural resources which would go hand in hand with a western directed movement for democracy in Burma.

In the mean time, Rohingyas continue to die on land and in the sea and the toothless UN keeps calling the continued Arakan tragedy and the fleeing of refugees a result of inter ethnic riot (strife). How can people say that when no reporters were allowed? Isn’t the same way UN experts reporting from former Yugoslavia, Cambodia and in Rwanda ignored the early signed and characterized the genocides as civil strafes until it was too late to save human lives from the knives of vigilantes and government forces. We remember only after innocent victims were silenced, there were eerie signs everywhere then only we began to call the events as genocides!

BY :   Abid Bahar.

Myanmar's minorities : "The most persecuted group in Asia"

THIDAR HTWE’s short life was not much older than Myanmar’s democracy movement. After a quarter-century of struggle the movement has scented victory of a kind, taking seats in parliament just this year. But now the untimely death of Miss Thidar Htwe, a 26-year-old from Thapraychaung village, has ignited a tinderbox of ethnic tensions. Violence is flaring around the western state of Rakhine. The president, Thein Sein, warned in a televised address that it could hinder the nascent reforms. As one of the worst episodes of communal violence the country has seen in decades, it also raises hard questions about the rights of minorities in a new Myanmar.

On May 28th, Miss Thidar Htwe, a Buddhist of the Rakhine ethnic group, was raped and killed, allegedly by three young Rohingya Muslims, as she made her way home from a nearby village. Six days later a mob of 300 Buddhist-Rakhine vigilantes stopped a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims was stopped in the town of Taungkok. 

The passengers were taken off the vehicle and ten of them were clubbed to death, and one of the women was sexually assaulted. The mob then poured alcohol on the corpses, in desecration. According to some accounts, one of the victims was a Buddhist, mistaken for a Muslim.
The local authorities in Thapraychaung had claimed to have detained the three rapists several days before the bus incident. The victims of the bus attack were not from Rakhine state, and were returning home to Yangon, the country’s commercial capital. Soon gruesome pictures of the victims were circulating the internet and small protests erupted within Yangon’s Muslim community.

This was not to prompt a moment of national soul-searching.  Rather it marked the first salvo of fresh bigotry, unleashed against Myanmar’s Muslim minority on the internet and beyond. Discrimination against the Rohingyas has never been subtle. They are not allowed to travel within Myanmar, nor to serve in the police—technically, they do not even have citizenship (though this has been questioned in parliament). But their persecution has suddenly turned fervid.

It was evident in the state-run press. The Myanmar Alin, a newspaper, referred to the murdered Muslims with the derogatory term kalar, a word derived from Sanskrit which means “black”. In Myanmar it is used as an epithet for people with South Asian appearances, such as the Rohingya. More surprisingly, dozens of Burmese human-rights activists (many whom are themselves granted status as asylum-seekers by the West) have rounded on the country’s loosely defined community of Muslims—which includes plenty of ethnic Burmese, as well as Rohingyas and the descendants of South Asians.

Regarded by activists as the “most persecuted ethnic group in Asia”, the Rohingya inhabit the impoverished borderlands between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Much like their Buddhist-Rakhine neighbours they traverse both sides of the border. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Burma’s independence, fleeing racial and religious persecution not just at the hands of their Buddhist countrymen, the Buddhist Rakhines, but also the Burmese national authorities. 

Rakhine state was once independent. Burma annexed it in 1784, when the British had barely set foot in the Irrawaddy delta. At the time the conquering Burmese induced Buddhist Rakhines to seek shelter in Bengal, to the west. There they established the town of Cox’s Bazaar, with the help of a British East India Company official, Hiram Cox.

In 1977, almost two centuries later, the independent government of Burma conducted a notorious military operation, codenamed Nagar Min (“Dragon King”), which forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to flee across the border to the part of Bengal that had become Bangladesh. One of the victims of that putsch, now resident of Khutapalong camp near Cox’s Bazaar, told this correspondent that she fled only after Burmese soldiers butchered her eight-month-old child, on the grounds that she could not produce a permit.

Rakhine state’s tensions have a long history. They were on the simmer earlier this month. The statewide police presence had been increased since the massacre of the bus passengers at Taungkok. On June 8th, as Rohingya gathered for prayers, an incident between a Rohingya boy on a bicycle and a Rakhine on a motorbike turned ugly and attracted the police’s attention. Soon they turned to riot gear, and the angry street turned to stone-throwing. The police force that moved in with reinforcements already had a reputation for the near-genocidal purges against the Rohingya. 

After Friday’s violence the government declared a Section 144 criminal order and by Saturday it was a curfew. According to Chris Lewa, an expert on regional affairs, the order to stay in doors applied only to Rohingyas. It did nothing to stop Buddhist Rakhine mobs looting and pillaging. They were filmed burning Rohingya villages, apparently with impunity; they were happy to speak before video cameras while houses burned in the background. The mobs seemed to rage without any fear of police action. At least one Rohingya woman was raped in the mayhem.

Fearing a new influx of refugees, Bangladesh meanwhile tightened security on its border. As many as 1,500 fleeing Rohingyas were stranded, left waiting on boats that idled in the Naf river, unable to land. Bangladesh is already home to perhaps 250,000 Rohingya refugees. Their presence in that crowded country has long been a cause of political bickering.

By Sunday Thein Sein had declared a state of military emergency under Section 413 of the country’s 2008 constitution: the first since its nominally democratic government took office in March 2011. The previous criminal order was deemed to weak, so once again the army rules in Rakhine. The UN pulled out the small staff it keeps in the area, which were held to be the last neutral observers on the ground. 

Rioting spread quickly to Sittwe, the state capital. Local reports describe Rakhine and Rohingya mobs torching houses and being dispersed by armed police.

Tin Soe, the editor of the Rohingya-run Kaladan news network, welcomes the military state of emergency; he lacks faith entirely in the civilian police force. On the road between the main Rohingya urban centres, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, Tin Soe claims, the streams were clogged with dead bodies. He asserts the mobs’ killing of Rohingyas was done in concert with the police, who were Buddhists siding with their co-religionists. 

Tin Soe once petitioned for the end of military rule and the release of all political prisoners. But now one of the most prominent of the former political prisoners, Ko Ko Gyi, a member of “the ’88 generation students”, has blamed the violence in Rakhine state on elements coming from “across the border”. The implication, as ever, is that the Rohingya are not a legitimate people of Myanmar. Indeed, Ko Ko Gyi made it explicit: the Rohingya are not an “ethnic group” of the country, he says, and so somehow they must be to blame. The same rationale is not applied Myanmar’s other ethnic groups, many of whom have a “more Burmese” racial appearance (ie, they look less like South Asians).

Ko Ko Gyi’s sentiments were echoed by the popular press, which has taken to calling Rohingyas “Bengalis”, and publishing vile comments on pictures of refugees. Many of the comments posted online call for ethnic cleansing. One thing shared across the spectrum of religious and political hues is a sense of deep foreboding. Leading activist from among the ethnic Chin minority expressed the fear that in Myanmar “we might go back to the dark age before we have even stepped into the path of light.”


Myanmar : A dangerous backdrop

ON MAY 28th a Buddhist woman in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine was raped and killed by three young Muslims as she returned home. Six days later, in apparent retaliation, a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims was stopped in the town of Taungkok by a mob of 300 Buddhist vigilantes. The passengers were herded off the vehicle and ten of them were clubbed to death.

The tit-for-tat violence has since led to ethnic violence throughout Rakhine state. The killing, looting and house-burning have even engulfed the state capital of Sittwe. At least 21 people have been killed, many more injured and thousands of homes destroyed.

The frenzied attacks by both Buddhists and Muslims show just how combustible Myanmar’s regions remain, even after the great strides made in the country’s reform programme led by the president, Thein Sein. The violence also forms a dispiriting backdrop to the much-heralded visit to Europe by the opposition leader and freshly elected MP, Aung San Suu Kyi, who left Myanmar for Geneva on June 13th.

Relations between the majority Buddhist population in Rakhine state and the minority Muslims (known as Rohingyas) have been on edge for decades. The Rohingyas originally came from Bengal to what was then Burma when both were parts of Britain’s vast Indian empire. Even then they were hardly made to feel welcome, and discrimination against them continues to this day. Myanmar denies them citizenship, classifying them as illegal immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing racial and religious persecution not just at the hands of the Burmese authorities but by their supposed Burmese countrymen as well. Indeed, these latest killings did not so much prompt soulsearching among Burmans as a tirade of bigotry against the country’s Rohingya minority.

There were also fears that the violence could spill over into other areas, and even that it might retard progress on reform in the rest of the country. Mr Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in Rakhine state on June 10th, thus putting the army back in control there. The transfer of power in 2010 from the army to civilian authorities has been one of the main advances of Myanmar’s political transition, so any step back, even if only in a distant corner, has worried reformers.

Military hardliners, many of whom oppose Mr Thein Sein’s reforms, argue that the army must continue to have a paramount role, as it is the only institution capable of holding Myanmar’s shaky ethnic patchwork together. A state of emergency in Rakhine helps their cause. Even the reforming president warned that such ethnic and communal violence could damage democratisation and development in the whole country.

Such concerns will also make Miss Suu Kyi’s visit to Europe more difficult. Her trip to Thailand at the start of June marked the first time since 1988 that she had left Myanmar. She had worried before that, once abroad, she would not be allowed back in. The visit went well enough, but it was a low-key affair compared with the razzmatazz lined up for her in Europe.

Miss Suu Kyi will travel to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize that she was awarded in 1991. She will then address the combined Houses of Parliament in Britain before attending a concert in Ireland hosted by Bono, a rock star.

She will be feted wherever she goes, and that alone is likely to stir jealousy and tension within Mr Thein Sein’s government in Naypyidaw. But there is a more profound problem: the message that she is conveying to foreign audiences is fundamentally different from that of Myanmar’s government. In Thailand she warned against “reckless optimism” about the changes in Myanmar, and advised investors to maintain a “healthy scepticism”.

Those are wise words perhaps, but at odds with the message of many in the government. They are frantically trying to attract as many foreign investors to the country as quickly as possible, to compensate sceptical (and perhaps troublesome) hardliners with quick riches in exchange for a loss of political power. Ethnic violence in western Myanmar and the shadow of more to come will only make those tensions worse.