By Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times

A rights group has accused Dhaka of facilitating ethnic cleansing of indigenous Buddhists by pushing Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. This strategy of replacing the minority Jumma people of Bangladesh with the Rohingyas has been a factor in the latter’s persecution in Myanmar, the group said.

Jumma is a collective term for the indigenous peoples of CHT. They include the Chakma, Marma, Tripuri, Chak, Lushai, Gurkha, Assamese and Bawm.

The Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) submitted a report on the Rohingya refugee crisis to Yanghee Lee, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, on the eve of her four-day visit to Bangladesh from Monday (February 20).

More than six lakh Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh since 1992 but in December 2016 Myanmar offered to accept the return of fewer than 2,500 Rohingyas.

The report stated that while gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas must be investigated, the UN cannot ignore the Buddhists of CHT being made a minority in their own land by the permanent settlement of Rohingya refugees “who belong to the same stock of people as the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh”.

The Rohingya refugees, the ACHR said, have already become a majority in Bangladesh’s Bandarban district and have been involved in grabbing the lands of indigenous Buddhists, attacking Buddhist monks in CHT and launching insurgency in Myanmar’s Arakan province from CHT.

A team of researchers of the rights group had visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bzaar area of Bangladesh in January and found that they were living in makeshift camps and had no intention of returning to Myanmar because of absolute lack of guarantee against non-repetition of xenophobic attacks.

“At the same time, the Bangladesh government is neither registering the Rohingyas nor issuing identity cards to record their origin which is necessary for their repatriation to Myamnar. There is no intention to repatriate them,” ACHR director Paritosh Chakma said.

“That Dhaka’s national survey of Rohingyas conducted in June 2016 focused on all the three districts of CHT confirms that the Rohingya refugees are mainly settled in the CHT,” Chakma said.

Bangladesh’s latest census says the population of Bandarban district in CHT increased from 157,301 in 1991 to 298,120 in 2001 – an increase of 90% against decadal growth rate of 17% for the entire country. This was the period when the Rohingyas became a majority in the district.

“Few in the international community recognise that the Rohingya refugees who are subjected to gross human rights violations in Myanmar have become de facto rulers over the indigenous Marmas in Bandarban district with wider implications for indigenous Jumma peoples of the CHT,” Chakma said.

ACHR also informed special rapporteur Lee that Dhaka’s policy of absorbing more than half a million Rohingya refugees and using them for settlement in the CHT has encouraged the Myanmar government to expel more Rohingyas from Arakan province.

The Myanmar army had expelled more than 300,000 Indian origin people following a coup by General Ne Win in 1962. “With more than one million Rohingyas already expelled since 1992, the Myanmar army believes that they can actually expel all the remaining Rohingyas and get away with ethnic cleansing,” the ACHR report said.