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CENSUS OF ARAKAN (A brief study of Census Reports of Burma)

In the census reports of Burma the Muslims of Arakan were termed as Chittagonians, Arakan Mohammedans, Yakhaing Kalas, Myedus and Arakan Kamans. The word Rohingya is not found in any census report, but it is still found in the local history of Arakan. In the census reports Rohingyas were tabulated inadvertently as Chittagonians and Arakan Mohammedans. The Chittagonians are not a people or a nation or a race anywhere in the world. Chittagong is only a district in Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh). The terms Kala and Chittagonian Khawtaw are applied contemptuously and chauvinistically to the Muslims of Arakan and Burma by the Arakanese and the Burmese people. Despite the various changes in the different methods of their enumeration, the census reports since 1872 reveal that the Muslim population in Arakan has followed a natural line of growth as an integral part of the country1. They had increased not because of uncontrolled and excessive immigrants or other unnatural causes but because of the population of Arakan and Burma had increased. In 1826 the total population of Arakan was one hundred thousand including 60,000 Arakanese, 30,000 Muslims and 10,000 Burmese. These were the indigenous population. In 1835 this had risen to 211,536. In 1845 the population numbered 309,608 which in 1855 reached 366, 310.2 In 1886 the population of Upper Burma was 3,000,000 while lower Burma had a population of 3,736,771souls.3 The Census Report of 1931 recorded that the total population of Burma numbered 14,653,977 while the Muslim population was 584, 839.4 The population of Burma in the census of 1973 and 1983 were 27,105,901 and 35,313,905 which included the population of Arakan 1,712,838 and 2,045,559 respectively.In 1983 the Muslim population of Burma was 1,308,524 souls. In the Census Report of 1872 we find indigenous Muslims in Arakan. The Muslims of Arakan numbered 64,000 or two-third of the total number of Muslims 99846 in the British Burma Province which consisted of three divisions,Arakan, Pegu and Tenasserim. They had been so long in Arakan that the census report mentions they may be called indigenous population.5 They were the offspring partly of immigrants from Bengal and other parts of the Indian sub-continent who settled down in the land at different period of history and partly of prisoners of war who had been forcibly brought to the country. The Muslim population of Akyab district who in 1872 numbered 58,255 had by the year 1901 risen to 154,887 which at the census of 1911 had increased to 178,647.6 The Arakanese form the major part of the inhabitants. In Akyab district they numbered 171,612 in 1872. In 1901 it had risen to 239,649 which by the year 1911 had decreased to 209,431. The decline in number of persons recorded as speaking Arakanese. There had been a large influx of population from the districts of Sandoway and Kyaukpyu. The immigrants from these two districts to Akyab district
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. Meer Sulaiman, Muslims in Burma, Islamia School Annual Number, 1935. 2. Albert Fytch, Burma Past and Present, Vol:II, pp.288-290. 3. Daw Ni Ni Myint, Burmas Struggle Against British Imperialism, pp.84,85. 4. Islamic Culture, Vol:X, No.3, July 1936, p.409. The Coming of Islam to Burma dwon to 1700 A.D. 5. Meer Sulaiman, Muslims in Burma, Islamia School Annual Number, 1935. 6. Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District, Vol:A,pp.83,86.

claimed themselves to be Burmese and not Arakanese which made a decrease in the Arakanese population of Akyab district while it made an increase in the Burmese population of the district. In 1872 the Burmese population of the district was 4632 souls which had risen to 35,751 and 92,185 by the years 1901 and 1911 respectively.7 In 1831, when the Hill district of Arakan and a part of Myebon township of Kyaukpyu district were included in the Akyab district the inhabitants numbered 95,098 souls. In the following year the number had risen to 109,645. The following statement represents the population of Akyab district. Year 1832 1842 1852 1862 1872 Population 109,645 131,034 201,677 227,231 276,671 Year 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 Population 359,706 416,305 481,666 529,943 576,430

At the census of 1921 the Muslims in the district were 208,961 while the total population was 576,430 including Animists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, others and 315,140 Buddhists. The Buddhists included Burmese, Arakanese, Shans and other Buddhists.8 As in 1921 instructions were issued by the authorities concerned to the census enumerators directing them that the Arakan Mohammedans,the original indigenous Muslim population of Arakan, were to be called Yakhaing Kalas the Muslims of Arakan seemed to be worried about their nomenclature.9 There was a society called Arakan Anjuman -i-Islamia in Akyab. It was established in 1909. It was an active society and in order to safeguard the interests of Muslims of Arakan it was apparently desirous of uniting all Muslims who were permanent residents in Arakan and it had extended the term Arakanese Muslims to include all Muslims. The society urged all Muslims to return themselves in the census as Arakanese Muslims. It was stopped at once because there were no instructions for the census enumerators to provide any entry such as Arakanese Muslims. It was due to the representations of the Arakanese Buddhists to the Deputy Commissioner of Akyab not to include the Muslims in the term Arakanese or Yakhaing10 Therefore in the Census of 1931 the Muslims of Arakan were tabulated into Indo-Burman races namely Arakan Mohammedans, Arakan Kamans and Myedus.11 There was also the term Chittagonians.The Arakan Mohammedans are mostly found in the Akyab district; and an appreciable number are also found in Kyaukpyu and Sandoway districts. They are properly the descendants of Arakanese women who married Bengali Muslims. In Burma and Chittagong they are called Yakkhaing Kalas and Rohingyas respectively. They are recognized locally as a distinct race and they dress differently from the Arakanese and Bengalis.12 They are Rohingyas and not Arakan Mohammedans.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------7. Ibid, pp.83, 84, 85, 86. 8. U Ba Tha, Roewengyas in Arakan, The Guardian Magazine, May 1960, p.35 9. Meer Sulaiman, Muslims in Burma, Islamia School Annual Number, 1935 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Census of India, 1931, Vol:XI, Burma, Part I, Report,pp.230+231. Burma Muslims, p.97.

CENSUS OF 1983 Total population by Sex Sr. No. Townships Male 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. Akyab Ann Buthidaung Gwa Kyaukpyu Kyauktaw Manaung Maungdaw Minbya Myebon Myohaung Pauktaw Ponnagyun Ramree Rathedaung Sandoway Taungup Total 86785 37999 92745 25319 60484 77268 30391 140164 63380 39427 72489 52082 42658 44780 53029 48171 45470 1012641 Population Female 88891 38090 92810 25528 65087 77297 33370 139832 63223 39825 72445 52037 42574 49861 54637 49575 47836 1032918 Total 175676 76089 185555 50847 125571 154565 63761 279996 126603 79252 144934 104119 85232 94641 107666 97746 93306 2045559

The above table shows that in 1983 the total population of Arakan was 2045559 with 1012641 males and 1032918 females while it was 1712838 in 1973 with an annual increase of 1.79 percent. Among the different races Arakanese with 67.8 percent was the largest proportion. Chins constitute 3.2 percent while other peoples with the exception of 24.3 percent of Bangladeshis formed 4.7 percent. The Buddhists were 69.7 percent while Muslims were 28.5 percent of the total population. All the other religions constitute 1.8 percent.13
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------13. Rakhine State, 1983 Population Census,pp.9, 14, 15 and 16.

Among the total population the Muslims were 584518 persons while the Arakanese were 1387450 souls (see the attached table) which shows that the Muslims were not half of the Arakanese while in 1826 the Muslims were half of the Arakanese (Muslims 30000 and Arakanese 60000) already shown above. The Census Report of 1983 did not mention the number of the Rohingyas, Kamans and Myedus but 496301 persons were forcibly tabulated not only as Bangladeshi Muslims but also as foreigners while the total Muslims were 584518 persons although the Burmese authorities were urged to record the correct number of Rohingyas and other indigenous Muslim races of Arakan in the correct number and in the correct place. But the census authorities turned a deaf ear. Whatever the question arises in connection with the indigenous Muslim races of Arakan they are consequently entitled to regard or to remain themselvels as distinct Muslim races such as Rohingya, Kaman and Myedu in Arakan.

The End 12-7-88