Hindus who have fled violence in Myanmar since late August and have taken refuge in Bangladesh along with the Rohingya Muslims, say they are not willing to return to their villages in Rakhine state because they are scared of facing violence again.
The Hindu refugees in Bangladesh said that they want to move to India if the Myanmar authorities do not help them resettle in Buddhist-majority areas of the country.
“Our village in Rakhine is not safe for the Hindus any more. If [the] Myanmar government helps us move to Rangoon we are ready to go there,” Lolimohan Sil, 52, a barber from Bolibazar, told VOA. “If Myanmar cannot help us live in a safe and peaceful area of the country we want to move to India. India should help us.”
A month after Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 police posts and an army camp killing at least 12 people, triggering a campaign by the army against Rohingya villages, Myanmar authorities reported finding the bodies of 45 Hindu villagers in three mass graves.
Myanmar officials said it was the Muslim Rohingya militants who killed more than 90 Hindus, including those whose remains were recovered from the mass graves. However, the insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) denied killing the Hindus, saying it did not target any civilians.
Since August 25, over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar and crossed over into Bangladesh. About 800 Hindus have also fled Myanmar.
Immediately after arriving in Bangladesh, the Hindu refugees told local journalists that their loved ones had been killed by the Myanmar security forces and armed local Rakhine Buddhist men.
But many of the Hindu refugees later changed their story.
Now, none of the Hindu refugees is saying that the Myanmar soldiers or locals killed any Hindus. Some of the Hindu refugees are saying that they could not identify the killers because they were masked, while others are saying Rohingya militants killed their relatives and Hindu neighbors.
Hindu refugee Niranjan Rudra said he would not want to return to his village of Chikonchhori in Rakhine because the Rohingya militants, who he referred to as “Kala Party” or Black Party, were still active and they would target the Hindus.
“Kala Party or Al Yakin men are still a threat to us in our village. They killed so many Hindus. They will kill us if we go back to our village again. There is no police or military there. So, we will not go to our village,” said Rudra, who has been in Bangladesh since the end of August.
“We will feel safe if we can move to Rangoon (Yangon). We will also find peace if we go to India.”
Hindu refugee Milon Sil said the Rohingya militants killed the Hindus and they still pose a threat to the Hindus and so with his family he wants to move to Buddhist-majority areas of Myanmar.
“In Bangladesh we have got good hospitality. But, Myanmar is our country. We want to go back to Myanmar. But, Al Yakin men are hiding in the area where we lived,” he said. “If the government helps us move to Sittwe or Rangoon, we are ready to return to Myanmar.”
Some journalists who met Rakhine’s Hindu survivors as soon as they arrived Bangladesh said they were surprised the way they changed their story over the weeks.
Nurul Islam, Cox’s Bazar correspondent of Dhaka-based newspaper New Age, said he interviewed Anika Dhar on August 28 when she said to him that Myanmar soldiers had killed her husband and seven other relatives.
“Some other journalists too heard the same story from Dhar in the last week of August. But, when I met her in Cox’s Bazar again around the middle of September, she said that she could not identify the killers of her husband and other relatives because they all wore masks,” he said.
Dhar was among a group of eight Hindu women who were later returned to Myanmar in a secret military operation. All eight women told the Myanmar media in October that Rohingya militants killed their relatives and Hindu neighbors.
“I was stunned when I found that Dhar had changed her story for the second time and blamed the Rohingya militants for the killings. The identity of the killers of the Hindus in Myanmar remains a mystery,” Islam said.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh said the Hindu survivors are telling lies.
Monir Ahmed, a Rohingya neighbour of Dhar said that when the Myanmar soldiers and Rakhine militia members attacked the Rohingya and Hindus in his village of Fakirabazar on August 27, he managed to slip out.
“Myanmar military, Border Guard Police and the Rakhine men killed 30 Rohingya Muslims and 40 Hindus in that attack. Of course the Hindus were not killed by Rohingya (militants). If the Rohingya militants killed them those Hindu survivors would have never fled to Bangladesh along with us,” he said.
Rohingya refugee Maung Theing Hlaing said the Hindu refugees are telling lies and putting the blame on the Rohingya militants “simply to please the Myanmar government.”
“If the Hindus do not blame the Rohingyas for the killings, they will not be able return to Myanmar. They know if they can please Myanmar government by branding the Rohingyas as the killers they can even occupy the Rohingya-owned lands in Rakhine and live there,” he said.
Myanmar has denied allegations that its army has targeted civilians in Rakhine state.