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The Untold History of the Displaced Bengalis of Burma


· Mrittika Shahita University of Dhaka (Dhaka, Bangladesh)


07/28 | 11:00-11:20 UTC+2/CEST


Indian, to be specific, Bengali migration to Burma (present Myanmar) had been occurring since ancient period and initiated by various reasons. Advent of British colonialism established this migration as a policy befitting their particular political and economic goals. As a result, many people from Bengal, who received western education were encouraged to explore career opportunities in Burma. According to 1931 census, the percentage of Bengali population in Burma was 2.57.
However, it was seldom a peaceful co-existence. Local inhabitants were raged because of the competitive and limited job markets. Birth of Burmese nationalism in the first half of the twentieth century had deepened this problem and their shattered relation seemed irreparable when Burma emerged as a separate colony of the British Empire in 1937. The next year experienced violent anti-Indian riot that took several lives, including a family member of mine from Chittagong. After this, Governmental measures had been taken to restrict Indian immigration to keep the Burmese colony stable. Advent of WWII turned the situation even more complicated and forced Indians to leave Burma. Before the fall of Rangoon in the hand of the Japanese in 1942 more than 1,00, 000 Indians left Burma. Bengalis, mostly returned through sea or Arakan-Chittagong road facing inexplicable hardship. These displaced people never returned to Burma and restarted their wheel of life leaving behind the bittersweet past. I believe, an investigative research on this displaced people is indispensable and long due. It will also definitely shed light to the current tussle between Myanmar and Bangladesh regarding Rohingya crisis