by Hafizur Talukdar
Bangladesh is gradually developing a negative attitude towards the Rohingyas. After all, the local people of Ukhia-Teknaf are developing a negative attitude towards the Rohingya among the people of Bangladesh as a whole. As I do research on Rohingyas, many ask me: ‘When will Rohingyas leave Bangladesh? Will it ever leave at all? ’Right after that the questioner replied: ‘The Rohingya will not actually leave Bangladesh. They’ve got honey here. Then begins the explanation-analysis. ‘It was not right to allow them to enter Bangladesh. I have fallen into a trap to show more humanity. ‘I have had such experiences almost all the time. But the problem is that many of those who make such comments do not have experience at the field level. Their approach is based on three main factors. One, consecutive negative news about Rohingya published in the media. Two, inter-conflict among Rohingyas and growing conflict with locals. And three, growing uncertainty about the repatriation process.
But those who work in the field know that the number of Rohingyas involved in the conflict is negligible. Most Rohingya refugees are ordinary civilians. In Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a sense of helplessness has become ingrained in ordinary Rohingyas, who have been victims of poverty, education deprivation, horrific persecution and multiple persecutions. Thus, some Rohingyas are negligently responsible for the various conflicts, murders, illegal border trade including yaba and deterioration of local law and order in the media.
It is undeniable that due to the presence of about 1.3 million Rohingyas, the local people have become a demographic minority in their area. Due to the presence of such a large number of Rohingyas, about 6,000 acres of land has been occupied by camps set up for Rohingyas, which has had a huge impact on the local environment. The amount of cultivable land has decreased. Cattle grazing areas have shrunk. The participation of Rohingyas in the lives and livelihoods of the local people has increased. Due to all these, the Rohingyas are no longer receiving hospitality from the local people.
But it is a matter of some concern that the attitude of the local people towards the Rohingyas is turning into a national discourse. Because it is important for us to remember that Rohingyas are victims of a special situation. These Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh and taken refuge to save themselves from certain death due to genocide. So the real responsibility for the current situation of the Rohingya is in Myanmar and the state system of Myanmar. Because no one in the world leaves his birthplace and homeland and seeks refuge in another country as a hobby. No one lives a refugee life as a hobby. So it is true that the Rohingyas are having a negative impact on the local people, their livelihoods and the local environment, but this cannot be blamed on the Rohingyas alone.
Recently, while visiting the Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, I noticed a kind of frustration among the Rohingyas. Frustration is gradually consuming the young generation of Rohingya. Of the 7.5 lakh Rohingyas who came to Bangladesh in 2016, a significant number are young in age. Talking to many of them, I learned of their growing frustration. Ever since then I have been thinking: What is the future of Rohingya youth?
Various local and foreign aid agencies are actively managing the large number of refugees in 34 temporary Rohingya refugee camps in Ukhia and Teknaf. Almost all the goods and services required to meet the daily needs of the Rohingya refugees are being provided through these government-private and domestic-foreign aid agencies. As part of this, education for children is being provided, and various types of maternity-health and adolescent health-awareness activities for women are also being carried out in the refugee camps. Besides, there are various projects to enhance the skills of women. But there are no real programs or projects for Rohingya youth in the refugee camps. So when I went to do research with Rohingya youth, I noticed a growing frustration among them.
It is pertinent to mention here that out of the 650,000 tortured Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh in 2016, many of the young people who came have horrific experiences of genocide. Many of their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and relatives have been shot dead in front of their eyes. In front of the eyes of many of them, their houses have been burnt down. Many of these young people have experienced horrific torture.
But after coming to Bangladesh, after coping with the initial shock, these young people are gradually becoming frustrated. There is no education system for these young people. There is no technical knowledge training for them. With two consecutive repatriation attempts in 2016 and 2019 failing, there is also no chance that they will return to Rakhine quickly. With the military taking over power in Myanmar on February 1, 2020, the prospect of a return to Myanmar is fading. Meanwhile, a negative perception and attitude towards Rohingya is gradually increasing in Bangladesh as well. In such a situation, Rohingya youth are becoming frustrated and disoriented. Many of them have remarried because there is a practice of child marriage among Rohingyas. As a result, it is increasingly frustrating.
For these reasons, many people risk their lives to try to escape to different countries by illegal means at the hands of brokers. Because they have no future in Bangladesh. Myanmar will not take them. How will they spend the rest of their lives? In my research, I have seen this frustration among the Rohingya youth. Taking advantage of this frustration of the Rohingya youth, various miscreants active in the Rohingya refugee camps are trying to recruit them into their own group. Moreover, some of the Rohingya youths are also involved in various illegal activities – especially various types of illegal border trade, carrying goods of yaba trade, various types of criminal activities, etc.
In conclusion, they are in no way responsible for the fact that today’s Rohingya youth are taking refuge in another country and living as refugees. The whole life of these young people is still ahead. These young people have been forced to come to Bangladesh as a result of a genocide situation. In the refugee camp, they are living in a small house with a bamboo fence under the roof of Tripoli. These young people are extremely frustrated with their future just by spending their days on their stomachs. It is the responsibility of the international community and aid agencies to think constructively about the future of these Rohingya youth. Because it is important for us to remember that even though these are young refugees, in the end, they are the people. They also have a life.
About the author:
Hafizur Talukdar. Currently, living in Dhaka city in Bangladesh. A school teacher and researcher who has completed honors and Master’s degree in the International Relations department in Dhaka University.