Swept Up in Muslim Genocide Crisis, Hindu Rohingyas Are Stuck in Bangladesh

Hindu Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh pray at a makeshift Hindu shrine in December 2018. RNS photo by Amir Hamza

As talks restart this month about repatriating Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh back to Myanmar, neither country’s government has an answer for the fate of Hindu Rohingyas still stuck in Bangladesh.

More than a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to settle in at least 27 camps in neighboring Bangladesh. The refugees are commonly recognized as a Muslim minority group that has been persecuted for its members’ faith by authorities in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

But outside the largest camp, Kutupalong, approximately 500 Hindu refugees live in a heavily policed settlement that looks more like a village than the crammed camps the Muslim refugees live in. The crisis has largely focused on the Muslim refugees, but these Hindus have their own set of problems.

The Hindu families began arriving in Bangladesh along with the Muslim Rohingya in late August 2017, after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant Rohingya Muslim group, attacked 30 Myanmar military outposts, kickstarting the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya.

Hindu Rohingyas take part in daily life in their secluded refugee settlement in December 2018, near Kutupalong, Bandladesh. RNS photo by Amir Hamza

The Hindu refugees claimed ARSA attacked Hindu homes in addition to Myanmar military outposts the day the fighting began.

“When they were killing each other, we escaped to Bangladesh,” said 60-year-old Hindu Rohingya refugee Mintu Rudro.

Invested in keeping the country a Buddhist-majority land, the Myanmar government had already stripped Rohingyas’ citizenship rights in 1982, claiming they were illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The 2017 attacks began what United Nations investigators have called a genocidal crackdown.

The Bangladesh government is particularly stringent about security in the area of the Hindu camp, due, it said, to interreligious conflict between Rohingya Hindus and Muslims. But it’s not entirely clear that the Rohingyas of either faith, who lived side by side in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, are responsible for violence against the other.

The bodies of nearly 100 Hindu villagers have been found buried in mass graves in Rakhine state. In September 2017, during an official press trip, Myanmar authorities showed journalists two mass graves of Hindu Rohingyas. The Myanmar

military blamed ARSA, as has a report released a year ago by Amnesty International. According to the Amnesty report, eight Hindu women survivors said ARSA forced them to convert to Islam and took them to Bangladesh.

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Source: Religion News Service