Gandhi's granddaughter calls for Myanmar leader to act on genocide

11 September 2017 - 15:05 By Taschica Pillay
Rohingya Muslim refugees protesting at human rights violations in Burma during a protest in New Delhi
Rohingya Muslim refugees protesting at human rights violations in Burma during a protest in New Delhi
Image: Prakash Singh/AFP

Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter‚ Ela‚ has added her voice to calls for peace in of Myanmar.

In a letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi‚ Myanmar’s state counsellor‚ Gandhi urged her to use her power and influence to ensure that the government of Myanmar engages with the people of Rakhine state in a humane and compassionate manner in order to avoid further attacks or reprisals which will only turn people into enemies.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence flared in August.

Now‚ Suu Kyi who was under house arrest by the Burmese government for almost 15 years for her campaign to bring democracy to the country‚ has come under fire for silence on the treatment of Rohingya refugees.

According to a BBC report‚ the violence began in August when the Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine‚ killing 12 security personnel.

Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar since then say the military responded with a brutal campaign‚ burning villages and attacking civilians in a bid to drive them out. The Rohingya‚ a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine‚ have long experienced persecution in Myanmar‚ which says they are illegal immigrants.

Last week Archbishop Desmond Tutu broke his "vow of silence" when he wrote to his "dearly beloved younger sister" Suu Kyi on the plight of the Muslim minority in Myanmar. In his letter he wrote about his "profound sadness" at the deadly situation playing out in the Rakhine state. He called on Suu Kyi to be courageous and resilient again to guide her people back to the path of righteousness.

Gandhi said she believes Suu Kyi‚ a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Reconciliation and Peace in 2009‚ has a special place in the hearts of many.

“We call on her not to disappoint the many admirers she has and do the right thing. Set the path for a peaceful settlement and not a military settlement in the area and allow as much humanitarian aid as is possible to the suffering people‚ these would be across the board‚ both Buddhist and Muslim. We believe that it is also essential to move away from religious and ethnic tags and concentrate on the plight of the people‚” said Gandhi.

Gandhi wrote: “While we are aware that there are constraints in your position as state counsellor‚ it does not speak well to remain silent when humanitarian aid is denied to people who are already suffering from poverty and deprivation‚ and they are subjected to military attacks and abuses.

“Reports have been widely circulated that thousands of people are being forced to flee from this area. These are facts that cannot be disputed. We urge you to use all your power and influence to ensure that the government of Myanmar engages with the people of this area in a humane and compassionate manner in order to avoid further attacks or reprisals which will only turn people into enemies.

"Bearing in mind your amazingly courageous life journey and the huge sacrifices you have made over many years to uphold the principles of non-violence‚ we respectfully call on you to ensure that the Government of Myanmar immediately ends these attacks and urgently creates a platform for dialogue and peaceful settlement.”

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