Communities are wiped out and killed for their color, gender, religion or ethnicity. It is a scourge on humanity and it is contrary to the idea of liberal democracies which has been envisioned for the last two centuries by eminent thinkers, politicians and leaders. But it is in the past two centuries that the world has witnessed some of the most brutal murders on a scale never seen before.
A UN official reportedly said Myanmar was “ethnically cleansing” Rohingya Muslims. The minority community suffers from widespread violence, killings, gang rapes, torture and shootings. The others are fleeing Myanmar to neighboring countries.
According to a recent study, there will be no more Hindus in Bangladesh in the next 30 years. Hindus migrate by the hundreds every day from Bangladesh. Insecurities are driving the Hindu minority community in Bangladesh to leave the country. It may not be a typical case of ethnic cleansing or genocide, but a community is completely wiped out from a nation.
Ethnic cleansing is defined as the expulsion of an “unwanted” population from a given territory because of religious or ethnic discrimination, political, strategic or ideological considerations, or a combination of these.
Ethnic cleansing, a scourge
Events in Myanmar are not without precedent. Ethnic cleansing or genocide has been carried out by nations at different times in history. In North America, Europeans drove Native Americans from their lands, forcing them to settle in assigned territories. In 1915, the Turks massacred the Armenians during World War I. From 1933 to 1945, Adolf Hilter led one of the greatest episodes of ethnic cleansing in the world, killing millions of Jews, believing the Aryans to be a superior race. In the 1990s, ethnic cleansing took place in Yugoslavia; Serbia set out to ethnically cleanse Bosnian territory from Bosnian Muslims called Bosnians. in Rwanda, the majority Hutu ethnic group massacred hundreds of people from the Tutsi minority.
Closer to home, in 1990, around half a million Kashmiri Pandits fled the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the majority Muslim community wanted to cleanse the state of its minority. It is said that Muslims in Kashmir were instigated by activists who in turn were backed by Pakistan to demand an Islamic state. As a result, several Kashmiri pundits were slaughtered and a large majority fled the state to live the life of a refugee in their own country. Cyclically today, the influx of Rohingya refugees to states like Jammu and Kashmir leaves them vulnerable to activism, a major concern for India in the state.
The state of mind, the future
What is happening in Myanmar now is not without precedent, but the fact that such episodes are still happening around the world reflects a huge deviation from the path of building liberal democracies around the world.
India is often called the “land of diversity” where every 100 km the language changes. It is said that there are countless religions, cultures, languages, ethnicities, etc. who all live together in harmony. But do we really live together in harmony? In a village, there is a clear demarcation between the areas inhabited by Muslims and Hindus. The distinction between houses and amenities available to upper castes and lower castes is clearly visible. These demarcations have the potential to take on the gruesome face of genocide or ethnic cleansing.
Right now there is a false sense of nationalism on a global scale. Migration and terrorism have redefined and distorted the definition of nationalism. It has become so rigid that the concepts of globalization and liberalism have diluted.
We belong to liberal democracies and have thrived under this idea, able to cope with the religions and the diversities that surround us.
If we are to continue on the path of liberal democracies, we must take the path of fusion and assimilation. If one of us decides that he is superior to the other, then there will inevitably be a conflict and the risk of escalating into genocide. The hope is that liberal democracy and the acceptance of diverse communities will prevail and we will continue to prosper.