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Mystery masked gun men murdered dozens of Rakhine Hindus

A mix of grief, fury as Hindu groups across three nations react to the recovery of 45 bodies in Myanmar's conflict zone
Mystery masked gun men murdered dozens of Rakhine Hindus

This photo taken on Sept. 22,  shows 20-year-old Hindu girl, who believes 23 members of her family are dead after Rohingya militants attacked their Hindu village in the Kha Maung Seik area of northern Rakhine, sitting with her newborn baby, her husband and their young son at a shelter for refugees in Sittwe. Myanmar's army said it had discovered mass grave containing the bodies of Hindus, including women and children in violence-wracked Rakhine state. (Photo by 
Aidan Jones/AFP)

Questions remain over the perpetrators of a mass killing that has seen the search for dozens of missing Hindus in Rakhine State of Myanmar, following the recovery of 45 bodies from two mass graves.

Hindus in India and Bangladesh, two neighboring countries that border Myanmar, have differed in expressing grief and fury over the tragedy.

In Myanmar, Ni Maw, a Hindu leader and social worker in Maungdaw Township who helps security forces in finding dead bodies of Hindus, said 99 Hindus were missing since the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacks that led to the present Rohinya crisis.

Forty-five bodies were found in two mass graves Sept. 24-25. Among the bodies, 20 were women, 19 men and six were children. Some of them had their throats slit, according to Ni Maw.

The Myanmar military has blamed ARSA, a newly coalesced group of Rohingya insurgents that carried out attacks on 30 security check posts Aug. 25 that let to deadly, retaliatory military counteractions on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. The ensuing violence triggered an exodus of up to 500,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh.

Independent verification of the military's claims is impossible as journalists and aid workers have been blocked from entering the conflict zone in northern Rakhine.

"The Hindu community is very concerned about security. The government needs to assure them of safety and security, so the displaced people can go back to their respective villages," Ni Maw told ucanews.com.

About 8,000 Hindus lived in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships and have lived side by side with Muslims and Buddhists peacefully in northern Rakhine until the recent violence, he said wondering why Hindus were killed so brutally.

The violence reportedly displaced nearly 3,000 Hindus internally, now sheltering at temporary camps at Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe towns.

The United Nations say some 500 Hindus belonging to 165 families have fled to Bangladesh along with over 430,000 Rohingya.

Rana Dasgupta, a Hindu lawyer and secretary of Bangladesh's largest religious minority forum, the Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, said apart from condemning the killings, the truth must be established over mass killing of Hindus.

"We condemn all forms of persecution against people across the world because we as a nation faced genocide by the Pakistan military during the 1971 war of independence and millions fled to India to safety," Dasgupta told ucanews.com.

Dasgupta visited refugee camps in Cox's Bazar Sept. 23 where he met both Hindus and Muslim Rohingya refugees.

"Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh from Rakhine for ages but for the first time I heard that Hindus also fled. I met many of them who told me about horrific tales of violence," he said.

Hindu refugees said they saw 86 Hindus murdered including 36 women, according to Dasgupta.  

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"Black-masked men armed with knives, guns and bombs entered Hindu villages and tied Hindu men and women with ropes, they said. The detained Hindus were taken to the hills and killed one by one," he said.

"The big question is who are these black-masked men? Are they soldiers, Buddhist extremists or Rohingya insurgents? The truth must be established and real culprits must be punished," he said.

He said there are is much "blame game" over the Rohingya crisis and it's difficult to verify who is telling the truth.

"The international community must pressure Myanmar to allow independent investigators to find out the truth and take necessary action over violence that made both Muslims and Hindus suffer," he said.

Hla Tun, a Yangon-based Hindu cleric, said the Hindu community is heavy-laden by "profound grief" over the killing of Hindus.

"The Hindu community wants truth and justice. The perpetrators should be dealt with according to rule of law," Hla Tun told ucanews.com.

Ragu Nay Min, a Hindu in Yangon, said money and clothes are being collected for distribution among displaced Hindus in Rakhine State.

"I am very surprised and disappointed that the international community and media have been silent on the killings of minority Hindus while they focused mostly on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. I see that as a one-sided view," Nay Min told ucanews.com.

Hindus make up only 0.5 percent of the population in Myanmar while 89 percent are Buddhists and 4.3 are Muslims, according to the 2014 census.

Based on Ni Maw's testimony, the Myanmar government on Sept. 24 issued a statement claiming about 300 ARSA militants seized some 100 people from Hindu villages in Kha Maung Seik on Aug. 25 and killed them.

Mg Hla, a Hindu leader in Rakhine State capital city Sittwe, claimed displaced Hindus saw the killings by ARSA who forced Hindus to convert to Islam as the militants presume Hindus are "government spies."

An Indian home ministry official on condition of anonymity told ucanews.com that "it is not a case for the government in India to either deny or confirm" the claim by the Myanmar military regarding the mass graves of Hindus found in in that country.

However, "Rohingya Muslim militancy borders around parochialism... other religious minorities have been targeted in the past as well," the official said. 

Nitin Gadkari, federal transport minister and a senior leader of the pro Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party that rules the Indian federal government, told reporters Sept. 25 that the government was "fulfilling all humanitarian obligations" but cannot compromise on national security.

Gadkari indirectly referred to a firm policy of the Indian government to deport some 40,000 Rohingya who have taken refuge in India since they began to flee Buddhist-majority Myanmar after facing discrimination and violence.

India claims Rohingya refugees pose a threat as Muslim militants fighting against India could exploit them.

But Surendra Jain, international joint general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), said he believes the Myanmar military's claim that the Rohingya have targeted and killed Hindus.

Rohingya Muslims "themselves are responsible" for the situation they are in now, he said.

"They created the situation by picking up and sexually exploiting girls from Buddhist families and getting involved in terrorist activities. This is their basic nature," Jain told ucanews.com

Jain said his organization will ask the Indian government to shelter "Rohingya Hindus as they are facing huge persecution in Myanmar" at the hands of Muslims.  

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is considered an influential Hindu radical group with an extensive network across India. The group is a strong supporter of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Jain said they wanted Rohingya Hindus to be identified and Rohingya Muslims to be "shunted out from the country."

"Any Hindu that comes from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Rohingya community is in true sense persecuted, and India should offer them refuge," he said.

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