Azeem Ibrahim’s The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide traces the genealogy of the problem that Rohingyas are facing in Myanmar–the government’s refusal to acknowledge them as an ethnic minority thereby denying them civic rights. The very first line of the “Introduction” clearly states “the reality facing the Rohingyas…is the threat of genocide” (p. 1). The ruling government’s as well as the opposition’s inattentiveness to their miserable condition has put the Rohingya population in a dilemma–either flee or die. They have been recognized as Bengalis from Bangladesh who migrated to Myanmar during the colonial era, thus, they are excluded from the picture of nation. “Global indifference” (p. 3) to the issue has exacerbated their woes and Aung San Suu Kyi’s visibility in mainstream politics hasn’t changed much. These happenings not only blemish the picture of Buddhism as a peaceful religion but also Myanmar’s categorization as a full-fledged liberal democracy.
The first four chapters present a holistic picture of Myanmar’s phase-wise history and the consequences for the Rohingya Muslims. In the first chapter “A Short History of Burma to 1948”, Ibrahim lays out the historical underpinnings crucial to understand Rohingya persecution. Redrawing of territorial borders by the British for the convenience of their administration had serious ramifications for Rohingyas. The “dominant narrative” (p. 33) informed by these historical patterns have led to the identification of Rohingyas as “illegitimate” (p. 33) invaders who pose a threat, as a result, the Rohingyas are considered alien. This is in stark contradiction to the UN Charter which clearly states that “no state can render stateless, as a matter of policy, people born in its territory” (p. 33). Being Burmese by bi