The Rohingya Crisis Human Rights Issues, Policy Concerns and Burden Sharing

Author:   Nasir Uddin
Publisher:   GRFDT

The Rohingya Crisis

Human Rights Issues, Policy Concerns and Burden Sharing

Editor: Nasir Uddin

Reviewer: Samanwita Paul

Designation: Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Uddin, N. (Ed.). (2021). The Rohingya Crisis: Human Rights Issues, Policy Concerns and Burden Sharing. SAGE Publishing India.

The Rohingya crisis has received global attention since 2017 when the UN termed it as the “worst humanitarian crisis of recent times”. Since August 2017, an estimated 750,000 Rohingya Refugees were said to have fled from Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh.

However, the community at large has suffered from a long history of systemic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence. During the Second World War, Japan had armed the Buddhist Arakanese to fight the British and the British, in turn, used the Muslims to launch an attack on the Japanese forces. This, saw successive clashes between the Rakhine Muslims and the Buddhists. The year 1977 witnessed the horrors of Operation Nagamin; national effort to register citizens and screen out foreigners prior to the Census. Within May 1978, about 200000 Rohingyas had fled to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh due to forced evictions, widespread army brutality, rape and murder. The years 1991 and 1992 saw NaSaKa[1] and another massive flow of almost 250,000 Rohingya people from Arakan to Bangladesh on being subjected to forced labour, rape and religious persecution by the Burmese military. The most recent exodus of 2017 wherein a group of Rohingya militants attacked three border guard posts was followed by the most severe military crackdown on the civilians[2]. Defending the crackdown as a counter-insurgency operation Suu Kyi’s government refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingyas.

‘The Rohingya Crisis Human Rights Issues, Policy Concerns and Burden Sharing’ by Nasir Uddin is an edited volume which provides a comprehensive account of the present-day crisis both thematically as well as regionally. It covers a range of issues from their present-day situation in the camps to the policy issues which deals with the legality-illegality frameworks of citizenship and the dynamics of their repatriation. The book has five sections which have been arranged thematically.

It begins by highlighting the plight of those Rohingya refugees who have taken shelter in Bangladesh. Of the four chapters under this section, the first three deals with issues encompassing their health status, the current situation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the vulnerability of the refugee community to communicable diseases like the COVID-19. And the fourth chapter investigates the environmental impact of rapid camp construction in the Chittagong hill Tract, and the immensely vulnerable situation that the communities have to face owing to their geographical location in the region.

The second section deals with the systemic issues of citizenship, representation and statelessness of the Rohingya Refugees. While the chapters have been largely contextualised with respect to South Asia (India, in particular), most of the structural problems addressed in the section are relevant in the context of the Rohingya refugees, globally. Of the three chapters, Naikattempted to linkthestate-sponsored discrimination and violence with the current vulnerability of the Rohingya community to bonded-labour, arbitrary arrest, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and human trafficking. This calls attention to the miserable situation that the stateless have to undergo, the world over. Datta’s thesis on the Islamophobic stance of the current regime in India and its culmination into the current anti-Rohingya campaign provides a theoretically grounded explanation of the process of othering that the Rohingya refugees are being subjected to in India. Sultana attempts to situate the Rohingya refugees within the intricacies of the current Citizenship Amendment Act in India.

The third section brings to foreground the questions concerning the politics of ethnicity. Parnini and Fumagalli argues the manner in which the inter-play of ethnicity and religion has resulted in the collapse of all diversities, contradictions and complexities into one ‘meta-group’ and the ‘meta-other’, the Muslims. In case of Myanmar, the transition to democratically elected government from a military-led regime did not necessarily mean the endorsement of minority rights. The Myanmar state on the contrary has weaponized the bureaucratic systems to systematically suppress the Rohingya. Cowper-Smith is however of the opinion that the knowledge-practices of the collective-self have been instrumental in providing support to Rohingya social movements in Canada. Such movements have been influential in generating political visions surrounding the geopolitical realitiesof the Rohingya in Myanmar and the international community’s desire for intervention.

The fourth section begins with Ibrahim’s chapter on the position assumed by the international community in redressing the current Rohingya crisis. Ibrahim contends that with respect to Myanmar the contestation between China and the West has resulted in negligence and in some cases complete suspension of the question on minority rights. Paul Chaney and Bayes Ahmed in Chapters 12 & 13 explores the domain of discourse analysis to generate narratives on the lives, rights and demands of the Rohingya refugees. The accounts prepared by the Civil Society Organizations as well as the voices of the refugees themselves have been a potent source in generating such narratives. With regard to repatriation, Ahmed highlights that the Rohingya are keen to repatriate to Myanmar, given their demands of free movement, religious violence, protection against sexual violence, land and property ownership, access to healthcare facilities and recognition of the Rohingya as an ethnic group by the state is fulfilled. Siddiqui demonstrates the systemic factors linked to delays in repatriation and its effect on disenfranchising the refugees further.

Nasir Uddin, in the final chapter addresses the issue of relocation of the Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char by the Government of Bangladesh. Nasir Uddin sheds light on the many myths and realities surrounding Bhasan Char. It draws attention to the role played by the various stakeholders in the relocation process ranging from the Government of Bangladesh, the international donors, the local NGOs to the refugees themselves.

This book has generated a riveting and a comprehensive account of the Rohingya crisis and the distress that ensued. The range of issues that have been discussed in the book encompasses almost all of the critical factors surrounding the crisis. Most of the studies are an outcome of meticulous field-work carried out by the researchers. Even though some of the field-based chapters suffers from the limitations of being purely a descriptive study and thus oversimplification of the nature of the crisis. Such chapters have however aided in bringing to forefront the Rohingya voices from the ground. Theoretically grounded, these chapters attempted to examine the link between the structural factors of persistent discrimination, violence, and statelessness with that of the present-day Rohingya crisis. This focuson the systemic nature of the crisis is especially helpful when applied to understanding the factors behind the global refugee crisis. The book has been tremendously successful in achieving a balance between the various systemic factors linked to the refugee crisis and situating it in the context Rohingya refugees, on the basis of field-based study. It is not only a must-read for those researching on the Rohingya crisis but also those dealing with issues concerning forced migration and diasporic studies. 


Samanwita Paul is a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her work primarily focuses on the Politics of Displacement and the role of women with reference to the Rohingya Refugees in India and Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]


[1] The Nasaka – a word derived from the initials of its Burmese name – comprises police, military, customs and immigrations officials, and has had a heavy presence in Rakhine State where it has overseen the Rohingyas.

[2]Chaudhury, Sabyasachi Basu Ray, and Ranabir Samaddar, eds. The Rohingya in South Asia: People Without a State. Taylor & Francis, 2018


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