ByÂ Subodh Jain:
Burmese President Thein Sein declared emergency in Western Myanmar on 10 June 2012. The government’s move came following a wave of sectarian violence between the Buddhists and Muslims in the past week which left seven people dead and hundreds of properties ravaged in Rakhine state. President Sein was left with no option other than to impose a curfew in response to the furious and violent mob which was setting homes of Buddhist villagers on fire.
Conflict in troubled Rakhine state blazed after a Buddhist woman was killed in May 2012, followed by an attack on a bus carrying Muslims in retaliation. The ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community, which is a majority in the state led to the birth of Rakhine state. Rakhine also occupies the Rohingya community- a Muslim ethnic group consisting of stateless and unrecognized citizens.
Police and Military units have been deployed to maintain law and order along with curfew. In the country’s capital, Buddhist monks and Rakhine people gathered to worship at a Buddhist shrine and chanted prayers for the murdered woman and all those who lost their lives in this riot.
UN refugee agency claims Myanmar has around 800,000 Rohingya community members, residing in the three districts of Rakhine state neighboring Bangladesh. Security steps were also taken along the Bangladesh border where around 300,000 Rohingya people live. The speeding up of the process of political reform in Myanmar, coincided with the day Thein Sein’s Party came into power in March 2011. This government displayed enough potential to make some real changes in the country. One such noble move was the order to release hundreds of prisoners jailed during military rule in the country.
The current incident which took place in Myanmar highlighted few issues of vital importance. Rohingya people are considered foreigners by the Myanmar government and many Buddhist residents treat them with rejection. Although Myanmar has established itself as a democratic nation leaving behind anarchy, social disorder and lawlessness seems to be prevalent in the country. Riots and conflicts in the name of religion are very common occurrences; however it was suppressed under the rule of previous military government. Today such issues are reported but only reporting isn’t enough. The government of Myanmar needs to think of the millions of unidentified Rohingya people living a miserable life even in a democratic form of government. Racial discrimination must be eradicated. Also, security issues are to be given a deep thought in the country. Both the communities, the Buddhist and the Rohingya, today live a terrorized life. Unlike the state of a conventional democratic nation, the old customs and laws of anarchy still hold find their place in various parts of nation. Bottom line is that though Myanmar is, technically, a democracy, people here are not able to enjoy the major aspects of a democratic life.
Such riots, if still prevalent can gradually upset the country’s vision towards democracy.