The Rakhine State of Myanmar was historically the Arakan Kingdom, a prosperous state spanning western Burma to parts of the Chattogram Division. The Arakan Court is famously known for patronising the most prominent 17th-century Bengali poet, Syed Alaol (c. 1607-1673), well-known for his masterpiece, Padmavati, a translation of a Hindi epic poem Padmavat by Malik Mohammad Jayasi.
Arakan was conquered by the Burmese Konbaung dynasty in 1784, then ceded to the British as war reparation in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burmese war. When the British annexed all of Burma in 1886, the Arakan province became part of the Province of Burma under British India. Burma, including Arakan, also known as the Rakhine province, was split off from British India in 1937. After 1948, Rakhine became part of the newly independent state of Burma.
During the Second Word War, Muslims known as the Rohingya, inhabiting Northern Rakhine, fought the Japanese on the promise of autonomy by the beleaguered British colonial rulers. Others, mostly Buddhists, supported the Japanese. At the end of colonial rule in 1948, Myanmarisation, or a push for a majoritarian nationalism, despite the existence of some 130 ethnic minority groups in the country, led to a civil war in parts of the country.
In 1973, the military rulers led by General Ne Win declared Arakan as the homeland of the Rakhine people. However, the new dispensation did not recognise the Rohingyas, the majority in Northern Rakhine, as a distinct ethnic community. The 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar barred Rohingyas from citizenship. The Muslim Rohingyas were seen, defying history and geography, as intruders from Bengal, and even the label “Rohingya” was banned from the official lexicon.