History revisited

Forgotten history: Like the Rohingya, Indians too were once driven out of Myanmar

For most of Burmese history, Indians suffered bigotry for their ethnicity. Yet, India is now abandoning the persecuted Rohingyas.

In 1855, as the British were annexing parts of Burma to add to the Indian Empire, Henry Yule, an English civil servant, wrote of his travels in the South East Asian country. In this fascinating account of Burma, Yule also described the racial superiority the Burmese felt with respect to their dark-skinned, eastern neighbours:

“By a curious self-delusion, the Burmans would seem to claim that in theory at least they are white people. And what is still more curious, the Bengalees appear indirectly to admit the claim; for our servants in speaking of themselves and their countrymen, as distinguished from the Burmans, constantly made use of the term ‘kala admi’ – black man, as the representative of the Burmese Kola, a foreigner.”

This is probably one of the first written references to the Burmese racial slur “kala”. Later, as the Raj annexed all of Burma and made it a part of British India, Indians streamed into the region, where the local Burmese would often refer to them as “kala”.

Today there are very few Indians – defined as tracing their origin to British India – in Burma. But the term “kala” survives. It is used to racially target the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority living on the western coast of Burma who have been described as the most persecuted community in the world. But Rohingyas and Indians in Burma have more in common than a shared racial slur. Like the Rohingya today, Indians in Burma were also the target of racial discrimination and driven out in large numbers in the country between 1930 and the 1960s, a process that continues today with the forced expulsion of the Rohingya from Myanmar, who are considered foreigners in the country.

Browns in Burma

In 1826, the First Anglo-Burmese War was won by the British, giving the Raj control over much of what is now Northeast India as well as parts of the modern Burma. With it, Indians started to stream into Burma, a process that greatly accelerated with the complete annexation of the country into the British Indian Empire in 1885.

Indians had a significant presence in Burma and dominated commerce in what was then a province of British India. This included big merchants from the Chettiar, Marwari and Gujarati communities. Then, there were the Bengali babus. Like they spread West from Bengal under the aegis of the British Empire, they also spread East (Myanmar borders the Bengal delta). Among the more famous Burmese Bengalis, writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the author of Devdas, worked as a government clerk in the South East Asian country. The third and largest group consisted of labourers – Indians working as coolies, servants and mistries. In George Orwell’s novel Burmese Days, for example, memsahibs in Burma rarely knew Burmese, but did need to speak “kitchen Urdu” in order to direct their mostly Indian domestic staff.

By 1931, Indians made up 7% of Burma’s population. They were also extremely prosperous and controlled large parts of the economy. Indians owned so much property that, for example, during the 1930s, they paid 55% of the municipal taxes in Rangoon – the capital of British Burma. The local Burmese, on the other hand, paid only 11%.

This same migration also brought at least a part of the Rohingya population into Burma from Bengal’s eastern-most district, Chittagong. Currently, this fact is fiercely contested politically since it is being used by Myanmar’s administration to paint the Rohingya as Bengali and hence non-Burmese, given that their citizenship laws – absurdly – are based not on birth but on race.

Anti-Indian sentiment

The racial animus that is driving the mass killings of Rohingyas today rose first against Indians in general in 1930, as Telugu and Burman dockworkers clashed in Rangoon, sparking widespread anti-Indian violence. Much larger anti-Indian riots followed in 1938, a year after Burma was separated from British India (but still remained under British rule). Like with the Rohingya violence today, 1938 was simultaneously religious as well as racial – it was sparked off by a book written by a Muslim which was said to be critical of the Buddha, but almost immediately exploded into racial violence directed at all Indians in Burma.

In 1941, there was more violence as the Japanese attacked Burma during World War II. As the Japanese advanced into the country, the British began to withdraw. Without the protection of the British Indian Army, Indians feared attacks from both the Japanese as well as the local Burmese. This resulted in the first major exodus of Indians from Burma. Many Indians, in fact, trekked all the way from Burma to India, with thousands dying in the tropical forests on the way.

Institutionalised racism

In 1948, as Burma gained independence from the British, Indians had to face even more xenophobia as the new state defined itself in racial terms. The population of Burmese Indians had numbered more than 10 lakh before World War II – a number that dropped to around seven lakh in the mid 1950s. Between 1949 and 1961, out of 1,50,000 applications for Burmese citizenship by persons of Indian origin, less than a fifth were accepted.

In 1962, Burma saw a military takeover of its government. The dictator Ne Win followed an aggressive racial policy which affected every minority group. All property was nationalised, severely affecting rich persons of Indian origin. White collar Indians were expelled from the country. Between 1962 and 1964, more than three lakh Indians were forced out of Burma.

In 1982, Burma passed a new citizenship law that created a strict racial definition of citizenship. This rendered the Rohingya and most persons of Indian origin stateless. While the plight of the Rohingya has – deservedly – caught the attention of the world due to the genocide they face, these laws mean even people of Indian origin in Myanmar are discriminated against heavily even though they have lived there for generations. One estimate holds that 5 lakh people of Indian origin living in Myanmar are stateless.

Forced Burmanisation

Since then, faced with a Hobsons’ choice, persons of Indian origin have Burmanised – several government policies are aimed at making non-indigenous communities adopt Burmese norms, including language, religion and culture – rapidly in order to reduce the hostility that they faced. The Burmese language has replaced the various languages people of Indian origin spoke and even names have been Burmanised. Yet, this hasn’t entirely solved matters. Hindus and Muslims of Indian origin are not allowed any public celebration of religion and face racism.

In the 1960s, the Indian government was criticised for not helping its diaspora in Burma as they faced bigotry and were being expelled. In sharp contrast, China came to the aid of its Burmese diaspora (who were also targeted racially).

Little has changed today. The Rohingya are the victim of the same structural racism in Burma that persons of Indian origin faced. In the latest surge of violence between the state and Rohingya people who took up arms last year, more than 3,00,000 Rohingyas have fled the Rakhine state in Myanmar where they stay, most of them seeking refuge in Bangladesh.

However, the Indian government, rather than take up the cause of the disposed, is talking of pushing the few Rohingya migrants that have taken shelter in in India back to Myanmar – where they would face genocide.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

Play

The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.