COLOMBO: The existence of a mass grave of 45 persons in the Hindu township of Fakirabazaar in the troubled Rakhine State of Myanmar has led to questions about who had massacred them. Were the killers Rohingya Muslim militants or the Myanmar army and its underlings?

While being silent on the killing of more than 400 Rohingya Muslims since trouble began on August 25, the Myanmar government is going out of the way to publicize the killing of the Hindus and blame the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for it.

The government took a party of journalists to the site, when aid workers and independent journalists remained barred from the troubled parts of Rakhine State from where more than 800,000 people had fled to Bangladesh since August 25.

Rohingya refugees from the Hindu colony in Fakirabazar in Maungdaw, described to newspersons at a Cox’ Bazaar refugees camp, how masked assailants clad in black (called the Kala Party) had shot and stabbed people and dumped their bodies in pits.

Initially the Hindu refugees blamed the Rakhine Buddhists, the army and their agents.

“Myanmar military and Buddhists killed my husband for not participating in killing and ousting Rohingya Muslims,” the Dhaka daily New Age quoted Anika Dhar, a pregnant Hindu housewife, as saying.

Anika told a senior journalist with Reuters Television that she had taken shelter in a Muslim village after her husband was killed and came to Bangladesh with them.

Padma Bala, who arrived in Bangladesh on August 30, told the same journalist: “The Moghs [Rakhine Buddhists ] are cutting us up.”

Many Rohingya Hindus said they received support from Muslim neighbors in escaping from the Myanmar army’s atrocities.

“The Kala Party with arms, bombs and lethal weapons confined us to our houses for five consecutive days. We managed to escape the confinement with a Muslim neighbor’s help,” Arimahan Rudra told Dhaka Tribune

But Dhaka Tribune noted that over the last week and a half, some of the statements have begun to change.

The Hindus, put up in a separate camp in Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazaar, have started blaming “militant Muslims” for the attacks on them.

Last week, a group of Rohingya Hindus told AFP, that they were brought forcibly to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh by a group of men and told to convert to Islam. India Today reported women saying that Muslim militants had forced them to perform namaz and wear a burqa.

Reuters reported that in late August, a group of Hindu Rohingya women had told them that Rakhine Buddhists attacked them. But three of them changed their statement to say the attackers were Rohingya Muslims who brought them here and told them to blame the Buddhists.

According to the Hindu refugees, the Rohingya Muslims are angry with Hindus because while they have no citizenship, the Hindus have at least second class citizenship in the form of a green card which gives them greater privileges.

“Muslim terrorists have become desperate and started resenting the Hindus who have green cards,,”Puja Mallik, a young Hindu woman whose husband was killed by the masked men clad in black on August 25 ,told Dhaka Tribune.

“The government is willing to give Muslims the second class green card like we have, but they do not want that. They demand first class red cards that the Moghs [Rakhine Buddhists] have,” Puja said.

The Myanmar has three tiers of residency permits. The green card is for “naturalized citizens,” essentially immigrants. Green card holders can study in colleges and universities, can get jobs and medical treatment in government hospitals, travel freely and vote.

On the other hand, Rohingya Muslims are not entitled to the green card as they are allegedly “illegal immigrant Bengalis”. But they demand full-fledged citizenship, acknowledgement as “Rohingya” and not as “Bengali” and the removal of state-sponsored restrictions.

While saying that Rohingyas will not be taken back unless they have proper Myamarese documents, Myanmar is now urging Hindu refugees who fled to Bangladesh to return, promising they will be cared for in Sittwe, a port town in Rakhine State.

Commenting on this Dhaka Tribune said: “Many Rohingya Muslims think this is Myanmar’s long-term plan, a classic divide and rule strategy, to create anger and hatred between the two religious groups among the Rohingyas.”

Some Muslims deny that they have any animosity towards the Hindus while others say that a divide has emerged recently.

“Hindus and Muslims have been living together more than a hundred years in our village. The differences in our religious faiths did not create any trouble,” the media quoted Hashu Mia, a Muslim refugee from Fakirabazar village.

However, some Rohingya Muslims say that some Hindus had sided with the army and Rakhine militia since the violence erupted.

“The Hindus are collaborating with the army and Moghs in Muslim killing. They helped them in looting and torching Muslim houses as they know the localities well,” said Abdus Salam, another Rohingya refugee from Fakirabazar.

“The relation between Hindus and Muslims has significantly deteriorated over a month,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

The Rohingya insurgent group ARSA has strongly denounced the allegations leveled by the Myanmar army and said in a statement that the Myanmar government is deliberately dividing the two communities in order to rule over both.

“ARSA categorically denies that any of its member of combatants perpetrated murder, sexual violence, or forcible recruitment in the village of Fakirabazar, Riktapur and Chikonchhari in Maungdaw on or about 25 August 2017,” the statement issued last Wednesday said.

“The army is playing a game. The Buddhists and government agents attacked the Hindu villages so that they can justify the military crackdown targeted on Muslim eradication,” Mohammad Ayes, who enrolled himself in ARSA in August, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“If Hindus were really attacked by the Muslims, would they not be afraid to escape with the Muslims to get shelter in Bangladesh?” he asked.

“UN bodies and others are trying to enter Rakhine state to investigate what atrocities were done by the military. So they buried the bodies of Rohingya. If any investigation is carried out the military will be accused for sure. So to destroy the evidence they are posing Muslim bodies as Hindu bodies,” the newly recruited militant said.