The Rohingya people are Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State, Burma, who speak the Rohingya language. According to the Rohingyas, and some scholars, the Rohingya are indigenous to the Rakhine State, while other historians claim that they migrated to Burma from Bengal primarily during the period of British rule in Burma, and to a lesser extent, after the Burmese independence in 1948 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
Muslims have settled in the Rakhine State (also known as Arakan) since the 16th century, although the number of Muslim settlers before British rule is unclear. After the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, the British annexed Arakan and encouraged migrants from Bengal to work as farm laborers. The Muslim population may have constituted 5% of Arakan's population by 1869, although estimates for earlier years give higher numbers. Successive British censuses of 1872 and 1911 recorded an increase in Muslim population from 58,255 to 178,647 in the Akyab District. During World War II, the Rakhine State massacre in 1942 involved communal violence between the British-armed V Force Rohingya recruits and Buddhist Rakhine people and the region became increasingly ethnically polarized.
In 1982, General Ne Win's government enacted the Burmese nationality law, which denied the Rohingya citizenship. Since the 1990s, the term "Rohingya" has increased in usage among Rohingya communities.
As of 2013, about 735,000 Rohingyas lived in Burma. They resided mainly in the northern Rakhine townships, where they formed 80–98% of the population. International media and human rights organizations have described Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.