Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Arakan State

Proud People

The Arakanese are a very proud
people. They have had reason to be
proud. And to back this pride are
certain racial characteristics that
conduce to greatness, namely, hard
work, integrity, appreciation of and
praise for high qualities in another,

During the 17th and 18th century,
Arakan was a great naval power,
dominating the Bay of Bengal, just
as the Portuguese dominated the
Arabian Sea. One can read about
Arakan of those days in Mr.
Maurice Collis' THE LAND OF-^
time an Arakanese King held sway
from Dacca to Martaban. Arakan
was a naval power, ; whereas. • the
Burmese and Talaing Kingdoms
were land powers.

However, in the latter half of the
18th century, Arakan fell on bad
days with anarchy rampant.
Usurpers usurped the throne and
after some months or some years '
were in turn overthrown by otlier
usurpers. About this time the
Burmese of Upper Burma managed
to throw back the Takings, and
Alaungpaya managed to found the
Shwebo Dynasty. In 1785 some
relatives of an Arakanese King who
had lost his throne appealed to the
then Burmese King Bodawpaya tc
come to their help, but instead the
Burmese King came and conquered

Tens of thousands of Ara[kanese
were killed whilst tens of thousands
ran away to Bengal for protection
under the East India Company.
Later came the Arakanese Revolt
under Boh Chin Byan. This was
followed by the Order of the
Burmese King which was quite usual
m those days and it was that Arakan
should be depopulated. As a
consequence all males, from infants
to grown-ups, were massacred.
Again there was an exodus of tens
of thousands of Arakanese to safety
under the East India Company.

Then came the First Anglo-
Burmese War which was in a way the
outcome of the continual clashes
between the Arakanese refugees in
Bengal and the Burmese Officials.
As a result. Arakan and Tenasserim
were ceded to Great Britain, and
tens of thousands of Arakanese
refugees managed to return to their
native land.

But the country had been so
depopulated by the Burmese that the
British had to resort to the giving of
Waste Land Grants. There must
be some 40 or 50 Waste Land Grants
m Akyab District ranging each from
40,000 acres to 1,000 acres. The
idea was to transport back the
Arakanese who had run away to the
Bengal area and to settle them at the
expense of the Waste Land Grantee,
who in turn was given the grant in
perf)etuity at land revenue rates not
to exceed two-thirds the rate in
surrounding areas.

The Town of Akyab was founded
by the British and mostly peopled
with the Arakanese refugees from
Bengal. But tens of thousands did
not come back and were happy in
Bengal because of special privileges
during the British days. But after
the Second World War, from 1946
onwards, it is estimated that about
30,000 to 40,000 Arakanese return-
ed to Arakan and Rangoon, but
there are probably about 1,00,000
Arakanese still left in East Pakistan.

Then came the Second Anglo-
Burmese War and finally the Third.
At first, the British ruled Arakan
and Tenasserim direct from India,
but later, Burma became a Province
of India while Arakan became a
Division of Burma.

When the British were in Burma,
the Arakanese had very little to
complain, except generally, that the
surplus revenue received from Lower
Burma, including Arakan were utiliz-
ed for the development of the deficit
areas like Upper Burma. Because
of the qualities of head and heart of
the Arakanese. they mostly held the
top-jobs in Government Service in
Rangoon, whilst the Arakanese
people in Arakan generally managed

to prosper in spite of the keen com-
petition from the Indian and the
British merchants.

After a hundred years of British
rule, memories of the 40 years of
Burmese misrule in Arakan began
to subside. The British were the
paramount power; Britishers were
there to see to justice. The Burmese
could no longer bully the Ar&a-

Both the Burmese and the Araka-
nese had to depend on their own
efficiency and merit for advance-
ment in life. The British way of
life was such that neither the
Arakanese nor the Burmese could
get an advantage through intrigue
or backbiting.
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