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Table of “Rohingya” Designations


 

  

                                                                                 ရိုဟင်ဂျာ


A review of designations based on "Rohang" (or other words meaning "Arakan" in Bengali) which have been used to describe certain communities of Muslims in Arakan (Rakhine State) since 1799

  

 "Various parts of the Hills in this neighbourhood are inhabited by Mugs from Rossawn, Rohhawn, Roang, Reng or Rung, for by all these names is Arakan called by the Bengalese."

Francis Buchanan in Southeast Bengal (1798) - William van Schendel 1992

     

"It is a fact that Arakan in Bangladesh is colloquially called Rohang, Roshang, and  Rowang with a little difference of accent, region wise."

A study on the issue of ethnicity in Arakan: Abu Anin aka Kyaw Min - 2009 


“Rohingya may be a term that had been used by both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis living in Rakhaing since the sixteenth century, either as resident traders in the capital or as war captives resettled in the Kaladan River Valley... Yunus explains that Roang/Rohang/Roshang is probably derived from the Arabic ‘Raham,’ or ‘blessings’, thus meaning ‘the land of God’s blessings’…" 

“Theories and Histiography of Ethnonyms in Rakhaing”: Michael Charney - 2005


From a lingustic point of view, the name “Rohingya” is derived from the Indianized form of Rakhine, i.e. Rakhanga. Following Dr Thibaut d’Hubert, “the rules of historical linguistics of the Indo-aryan languages allow to easily explain the phonological derivation ‘Rakhanga’ > ‘Rohingya’. The passage from [kh] to [h] is the rule in the passage from Sanskrit to Prakrit, which allows us to derive Rohingya from Rakhanga: Rakhanga > *Rahanga > (short “a” becomes “o” in bengali) *Rohangga > (introduction of [y]# to indicate the gemination which induces an alternative pronounciation “ –gya” and influences the vowel [a] which becomes [i]) thence ”Rohingya”. While the scientific demonstration may look a bit awkward to the lay reader, it accounts in fact for the change of each letter and sound. In association with the paradigm “Rakhanga>Rohingya”, one should refer as well to the name “Roshanga”, “widely spread since the beginning of Bengali literature in the Chittagong region, i.e. since the early 17th century till the end of the 18th c.” In sum, the word “Rohingya” does not refer to, or mean anything else, but “Rakhine” in the local Muslim language. 

"Rohingya: The Name, the Movement, The Quest for Identity": Jacques Leider - 2014

____________________________________________________________________________________________


References to contemporary documents distinguishing between quasi-indigenous Rooinga/Rwangya/Rohinga and migrants to Arakan during British Rule known as Chittagonians who later took on the Rohignya identity.


(a) - “According to the 1931 census, there were 130,524 Muslims in the regions of Maungdaw and Buthidaung. A significant section of these were not Arakanese Muslims, called Rohingas (see above, page 25) – but Chittagongs who came from Bengal with the annual stream of immigrating cheap labour brought by landowners and merchants. Many of them remained and settled in Arakan”. Moshe Yegar "The Muslims of Burma" 1972 Page 95


(b) - "There continue to be sporadic reports of trouble in the Muslim areas, but it is clear that Pakistan has continued to preserve a strictly correct attitude, and publicity has been given to protestations of loyalty to the Union Government made to U Aung Zan Wai on his visit in October by the 'Rwangya' Community (Arakanese as opposed to Chittagonian Muslims); it is doubtful whether these represent the true feelings of more than a small fraction of the North Arakan Muslims." UK Ambassador James Bowker, Despatch to the Foreign Office 22 December 1949


(c) - "in conclusion let me stress that I am not against those Arakan Muslims who have stayed among us for generation. We will continue to regard them our kinsmen and our brethren. However, we cannot accept those so-called Rohingyas who are trying to create discord among our people. We will not recognize them as separate indigenous race, but if they prefer they can remain as foreigners the Chittagonians." Seit Twe Mauung, Rohengya Affairs, Taunzang Magazine Vo 2 No 9 1960-61


(d) - "Locally those slave Muslims are known as Royanka or Arakanese Muslims. The immigrants of the Chittagonian race find their way into the society of local Royankya and gradually they become absorbed within them. Eventually, they also claim to be Royangya [sic], descendants of the Muslim slaves in Arakan.” Tha Htu, Akyab the Capital of Arakan Guardian Magazine, August 1963


_____________________________________________________________________________________________


It has not yet been possible to establish the first public reference to "Rohingya". This was at 

one time  thought to be an English-language version of the  Memorandum by Abdul Gaffar in 1948 (see below) which was said to have appeared in the Guardian Daily of 20 August 1951 (Footnote 5 of an article by  

Kei Nemoto)But  this newspaper  did not start publication until 1956 and in any case the word used 

was probably "Rwangya", not "Rohingya". 


The modern version of "Rohingya" in Burmese is ရိုဟင်ဂျာ and this I have found in Burmese versions of reports of the surrender of the Mujahid in 1961, though the word used by Vice Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Aung Gyi was given in the English-language press at the time as "Rohinja". The first use of "Rohingya" in English which I have found was also in 1961, in an article by Seit Twe Maung (see below). The Muslim scholar Tahir Ba Tha first started to use the word "Rohingya" in his essays and other publications only in 1963.

In most cases, these terms have a common etymological source - the Bengali word for Arakan which is "Rohang". This is not always recognised or acknowledged. In some cases, another meaning is attributed to the word used, or the Bengali word "Rohang" meaning Arakan is said to be derived originally from other historical sources.


When Dr Francis Buchanan met one or more deported Arakaner Muslims in Amarpura (near Mandalay) in 1795, they told him that they called themselves "Rooinga" which they said meant "natives of Arakan" (or Arakaners). No doubt they continued to call themselves by the same name afterwards. British records do not record the name as such, though they might well have done if records had been kept in Bengali. 


Finally, it should be noted that regular Western use of the term "Rohingya" started only in late 1991 when the second mass exodus of Arakan Muslims began and Western diplomatic missions found it useful to use the term as shorthand for "Arakan-Muslims-some-of-whom- wish-to-be-known-as-Rohingya", and also because the Rohingya Solidarity Organsiation and the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front were responsible for military attacks in Rakhine State which preceded the exodus. At the time of the first mass exodus in 1978, the US mainly used the term Arakan-Chittagonians and the UK the term Arakan Muslims. The term "Rohingya" does not appear at all in diplomatic cables and reports except in proper names like "Rohingya Patriotic Front".


[Note: the entries from 1811 to 1852 below are all sourced to Buchanan 1799. In most case they are purely encyclopedic references. In no case is the entry derived from or constitutes a new, independent source.]


 

                                              Table of "Rohang" Designations                                                 

 

Attached at this link is a table of terms derived from the Bengali word for Arakan - “Rohang” - used since 1799 to describe Arakan Muslims, also more recently known as “Rohingya” or “Arakaners”.




Military and Political Organisations - for details see Wikipedia

(Note: these organisations have been verified independently)


 Rohingya Independence Front 1964

 Rohingya Independence Army 1969

 Rohingya Liberation Party 1972

 Rohingya Liberation Army 1972 

 Rohingya Patriotic Front 1973

 Rohingya Solidarity Organisation 1982

 Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front 1986

 Arakan Rohingya National Organisation 1988

 Rohingya National Army 1988

 Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Harakah al-Yaqin) 2013



Social, Cultural and Youth Organisations 


Details provided in "The Muslims of Burma" by Moshe Yegar in 1972

Note: Moshe Yegar generally describes the quasi-indigenous inhabitants of Arakan as "Rohinga" [without the 'y'] but contrasted them with the more numerous "Chittagongs". This distinction between the "old" and "new" settlers existed very clearly among writers during the years immediately following independence in 1948. The distinction has been lost for some decades as Chittagongs/Chittagonians abandoned this designation and took the "Rohingya" label, endeavouring to emphasize their quasi-indigenous origins in order to secure citizenship as natives of Burma.


On Page 25 of his 2002 publication "Between Integration and Secession", Moshe Yegar writes: "Despite a number of Shiite traditions which they practice, Arakan Muslims are Sunnis, who call themselves Rohinga, Rohingya or Roewengya. The name is more commonly heard among the Muslims of north Arakan (the Mayu region) where more Arakan Muslims are to be found than in therAkyab region. In 1961, their total numbers were estimated at 300,000."


United Rohinga Organization 1956

Rohinga Youth  Organization 1959

Rohinga Students Organization 1960

Rohinga Labour Organization 1960

Rangoon University Rohinga Students Association 1960


Details provided  in an article by  Aman Ullah in 2016

Note: These details are almost identical to those provided by Moshe Yegar in 1972 and we may reasonably assume that "The Muslims of Burma" was his source. The sole variation is that "Rohinga" with Moshe Yegar becomes "Rohinya" with Aman Ullah.  


 "The Guardian" of 3 August 1960 reported on a meeting organised by the "Ruhangya Youth League" which may well have been the same organisation as the "Rohingya Youth Organization"- see below. The article is headlined "Ruhangyas against Arakan Statehood". 


United Rohingya Organization 1956

Rohingya Youth Organization 1959

Rohingya Students Organization 1960

Rohingya Labour Organization 1960

Rangoon University Rohingya Students Association 1960



Articles 

 

A Note on the International Utilisation of the "Rohingya" Designation - Derek Tonkin 24 April 2020

Compendium of Articles on the Rohingya and Arakan - ARNO Monthly Magazine July 2009

Appendix B to Moshe Yegar "Between Integration and Secession" 2002 - Estimate of Rohingya Population

Brief Study of the Rohingyas in Arakan: U Ba Tha - The Islamic Review April 1966

The coming of Islam to Arakan: U Ba Tha - Guardian Magazine March 1965

The early Hindus and Tibeto-Burmans in Arakan: U Ba Tha - Guardian November 1964

Minority Peoples in the Union of Burma: George A Theodorson - JESH Vol. 5 No 1 March 1964

A Short History of Rohingya and Kaman of Burma: U Ba Tha December 1963

Akyab, the Capital of Arakan - U Tha Htu: The Guardian August 1963

The Mayu Frontier Administrative Area - U Tha Htu: The Guardian February 1962

Rohengya Affairs - A critique of U Ba Tha's articles: Seit Twe Maung - Tanzaung 1961

Rowengya Fine Arts: U Ba Tha February 1961

Arakan Muslims ask for Constitutional Safeguards - The Nation 27 October 1960

Slave raids in Bengal: U Ba Tha - Guardian Magazine October 1960

"Unity among ourselves": Mohamed Akram Ali - Guardian Magazine August 1960

"Ruhangyas against Arakan Statehood" - Guardian Daily 3 August 1960

Roewengyas in Arakan: U Ba Tha - Guardian Magazine May 1960

Shah Shujah in Arakan: U Ba Tha - Guardian Magazine September 1959

 

References and Quotations

 

“The British never used the term ‘Rohingya’. It was the word some Muslims, especially in the north of Arakan, used to refer to themselves in their own Bengali-related language. It simply means ‘of Rohang’, their name for Arakan. It implied that Arakan was their home. In the same way, people just across the border, speaking a mutually intelligible Bengali dialect, called themselves Chaygaya, ‘of Chittagong’.”

 

Thant Myint-U: Page 27: “The History of Modern Burma” - Atlantic Books, London 2019

   

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