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A Rohingya Woman’s Story


The Rohingya Muslims, forcibly ousted from Myanmar, are living precarious lives, mainly in the refugee camps in Bangladesh and India. The military ­assault on the Rohingya in Myanmar from 25 August 2017 onwards, compelled a large number of them to flee the country in a desperate bid to save their lives. Rahman Nasiruddin has documented the stories of some stateless Rohingya in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. A few such stories have been incorporated in the Bengali report titled “The Rohingya: How Will They Survive?” prepared by Surajit Bandyo­padhyay, and published by an acti­vist forum, Manthan Samayiki on 5 February 2018 in Kolkata. The micro-story of Toiyoba, incorporated in the report, gives us a snapshot of the traumatic lives of the Rohingya in Myanmar. 

Toiyoba lived in Mongdu, Myanmar, with her husband and four children. Her husband had a grocery shop in the market and reared poultry at home. The family did not have any land, other than the house in which they lived. Neither Toiyoba nor her husband were formally educated, and their children received their education in the madrasa. Toiyoba communicated that the formal education that the Burmese (the dominant community in Myanmar) receive in schools is not meant for the Rohingya. According to her testimony, the Rohingya children, who joined the formal system of schooling in Myanmar were deliberately not allowed to pass the examinations, and detained in the same class for years. Only those who paid bribes could manage to pass. To put it in Toiyoba’s words:

We do not have so much money. So we did not even think of sending our children to such schools. It is better not to have education, rather than studying with the Mogs (pejorative way of referring to the dominant community). Madrasa education would at least give our children the chance to know Allah. 

Toiyoba further stated that even the children of the Mogs would throw stones, if they found the Rohingya in the streets. She witnessed brutal state violence on the Rohingya Muslims before her family fled from Myanmar: 

Neighbourhood after neighbourhood was being burnt, and the young men and women were forcibly taken away. The young men were either shot dead or cut into pieces, and the young women, after being brutally treated, were found to be doused in petrol and burnt. Those of us who could escape are alive, the rest are dead.

Toiyoba’s story put us in a great predicament: How does one address such savagery of the state and pathos of the people in the language of human rights? 

Arup Kumar Sen


Updated On : 9th Mar, 2018


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