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Emperor Ashoka and Persecuted Rohingyas

13 Sep 2017 12:09 PM, IST

Emperor Ashoka and Persecuted Rohingyas
Rohingya people gather in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Aug. 29, 2017. (Photo - RFA)

Salman Sultan,

Emperor Ashoka ascended Magadhan throne as new Maurya ruler in 273 B.C. Following the policy of Magadhan Kings of aggression and conquest, Ashoka invaded Kalinga in the ninth year of his reign. Though Ashoka was victorious inflicting heavy casualties on Kalingans but witnessing the horrific effect of his conquest made him regret. His heart was filled with sorrow and despair. Consequently, he relinquished the policy of aggression and conquest in favour of peace and non-violence. To repent his deeds resulting in such devastation of Kalingans, Ashoka turned to Buddhism.


As per legend Siddharta Gautama born (623 B.C) into a ruling caste family was protected by his father to such an extent that he never witnessed suffering of people. However, one day he wandered into a park area of his kingdom where he was impressed by the calm and composure of a sage who was consoling suffering people and has even kept himself composed while passing through a corpse. Siddharta then decided to give up his kingdom and become a sage known to the world as Gautama Buddha (enlightened one). Both Siddharta as well as Ashoka were touched by the suffering of human beings and came to realize the futility of a life of luxury, greed for conquering lands and subjecting fellow human beings to untold misery by their actions. They strove for true happiness through renunciation and pursued the philosophy of ‘Nirvana'.


Though Myanmar is a multi-religious country but the majority religion is ‘Buddhism'. In Buddhism one aspires to develop awareness, wisdom and compassion in order to have the potential to transform both individual and the world. Therefore, what is happening with Rohingya Muslims, which form nine percent of Myanmar population, is baffling, to say the least. Military regime took their citizenship in 1982 on the false pretext that they came to Rakhine State only after British occupation in 1823. Aung San Su Kyi, who herself was under house arrest for 15 years, was expected to set things right for Rohingya Muslims when she assumed the office of State Counselor in April 2016.


The Telegraph (Sept 3rd) reports fleeing of 73000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the last week. As per Rohingya human right activists 1000, mainly civilians have been massacred by government soldiers. Indonesia's foreign minister has flown to Myanmar for emergency talks as protest empathizing Rohingya Muslims in Indonesia has escalated. To show solidarity with persecuted Rohingyas President Erdogan's wife has visited Bangladesh.


World leaders are exhorting Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to take firm stand in condemning violence and make life easy for fellow Rohingya Muslims but so far it has not been effective. How long humanity will suffer with such atrocities as burning of kids, houses and completely destroying the livelihoods of Rohingya Muslims who have every right to live peacefully in their own country?


India feels proud of its age old civilization and is the birth place of Buddhism apart from so many other philosophies. One feels the well-organized pulsating urban settlement which might have thrived millennia ago in the excavated ruins of Sarnath. India as an initiator of non-aligned movement and boosting of the birth place of an apostle of non-violence, Gandhi ji, has exasperatingly maintained a studied silence. Our emblem ‘Satyamev Jayete' demands from us strong worded condemnation apart from diplomatic measures to ease the sufferings of Rohingya Muslims. Though MOS, Home, has indicated deportation of 40 thousand Rohingyas, identified as illegal migrants, Hon'ble Supreme Court has sought Government of India's response by September 11 as per treatment of these as a class entitled for Refugee status. Will our government rise to the challenge of this humanitarian crisis?


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Keywords : Emperor Ashoka ,   Rohingyas ,   Gautam Buddha ,   Myanmar  

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