Anjul Haque fled his homeland for the first time when he was 16. He finally returned home three years later, only to be hounded out again when he was 29. Fifty-five-year-old and physically disabled, Haque has fled his motherland for the third time now, riding on the shoulders of other men. Haque is one of the countless Rohingya Muslims who have sought refuge in Bangladesh. A week ago, he arrived from Gorakhali of Maungdaw in Rakhine state and took shelter at the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp. He had taken shelter in this country with his parents way back in 1978, when sectarian violence had erupted in Rakhine. He was barely 16 then. “In 1981, we were rehabilitated in our native land from the Leda camp in Cox’s Bazar,” recounted Haque.
He had returned home then with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But violence erupted in his country again in1991. Again, he had to flee his native land. He was 29 and had lost his parents by then.
After spending many years as a refugee in Bangladesh, he managed to return home again with the help of the UNHCR. He started a normal life in his motherland. When the National
League for Democracy (NLD) came to power in Myanmar with its chief Aung San Suu Kyi winning the supermajority in both houses of the Assembly and becoming the country’s first non-military leader in 54 years, many Rohingyas hoped that their days of misfortune had come to an end.
But violence erupted again in 2016 and, to their utter shock, Suu Kyi termed the incidents of rape, torture, and burning of Rohingya homes as fake news. Haque did not leave for Bangladesh right away. He was still hopeful that Suu Kyi would finally stand up for them. But when the army burned down his home, he was left with no choice but to flee yet again to Bangladesh.
A week ago, Haque arrived in Bangladesh—riding on other men’s shoulders—along with his eight-member family. He cannot even walk now.
“On the last two occasions, neither the aid agencies nor the government kept their promise to provide me with the basic facilities. But even if I get the minimum rights in my country, I will return home,” said Haque.
Haque is not alone. Many Rohingyas, who had earlier been repatriated to Myanmar through UN agencies, have once again escaped to Bangladesh. The 2015 census states that there are 1.1million Rohingya people in the Rakhine state. Most of them are poor and illiterate. They do not even have access to basic education and health care.
In 1978, they were given the National Identity (NID) card of Myanmar. But in 1991, the Myanmar government took the NID cards from them and gave them the temporary citizen’s card, which is known as the ‘White Card’. In 2015, even the White Card was cancelled, and the Rohingyas were handed the Green Card as foreigners.