Aizawl, Sep 12, 2021, IANS
The fresh influx of refugees from military coup hit Myanmar continued with around 500 more Myanmarese forced to take shelter in Mizoram in the past few days as the Army and the opposition forces continued fierce battle in the country's western region.
According to the Mizoram government officials, with the fresh arrival of the refugees, the number of migrants from Myanmar taking shelter in Mizoram increased to around 11,500 since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1.
Local police and district officials, legislators and others while talking to IANS over phone from different places of Mizoram said that the desperate refugees from Myanmar crossed the Tiau River through small country boat and swam across to take shelter in the bordering villages of the northeastern state of India.
"The river Tiau (which flows along the Champhai district in eastern Mizoram), which is the international boundary, was crossed by the refugees in small boats with the help of local Mizo people. The ill fated poor people with no other alternative to survive from the Army attacks took shelter in our side and the Mizo villagers on humanitarian ground provided them food and shelter," a Mizoram Parliament member refusing to be named told IANS over phone from Aizawl.
He said that the fresh immigrants including women and children took shelter in 15 to 16 villages in Mizoram's three districts -- Champhai, Lawngtlai and Hnahthial districts bordering Myanmar.
Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana also told the media in Aizawl that if the attacks and counter-attacks by the Myanmar military and the opposition forces continue, more people are likely to come into Mizoram for shelter. Most of the refugees from Myanmar have been provided makeshift shelters by various local NGOs, including the Young Mizo Association which also provided them food, medicines and other basic necessities on humanitarian ground, while several others are living with their relatives.
The District administrations of the bordering districts are unable to officially help the migrants as they are yet to be granted refugee status by the Indian government or any international agencies.
According to the people acquainted with the happening in Myanmar and media and intelligence reports, the fresh refugee influx took place in Mizoram as the Burmese government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), called for a countrywide uprising earlier last week and clashed with the military soldiers who undertook massive operations against the resistance forces.
They said that Chinland Defence Force and Chin National Army (or Chin National Force) in joint operations last week captured the Myanmar Army camp at Lungler village opposite to Mizoram border and had detained 12 Myanmar Army soldiers. After that the military authority had sent a few helicopters and two jet fighters to launch a counter attack.
Sounds of fierce gunfights and bursting of shells and use of other firearms between the cadres of anti-coup NUG and the Myanmar army could be heard from the villages bordering Myanmar. Officials of the Crime Investigation Department (CID), which maintains the data of Myanmarese refugees, said that around 11,500 refugees, including about 20 legislators, have taken shelter in Mizoram's 11 districts since March this year.
The Champhai district along the India-Myanmar border is currently sheltering 4,550 refugees, the highest, followed by Aizawl district where 1,700 refugees have taken shelter. A majority of those who have taken shelter in the bordering state belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos of Mizoram.
Six Mizoram districts - Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual - share 510 km unfenced borders with Myanmar.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had earlier urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide asylum, food and shelter to the refugees who arrived in the state since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1. Referring to the Union Home Ministry's advisory to the four northeastern states bordering Myanmar and also to the Assam Rifles and the BSF for taking action to prevent illegal influx from Myanmar into India, Zoramthanga had said, "This is not acceptable to Mizoram."
A Mizoram government delegation had already met the Vice President, Union Minister of State for Home and Home Secretary in Delhi to persuade them to impress upon the Centre not to forcefully push back the Myanmar nationals sheltered in Mizoram.
As per the MHA advisory, the state governments and UT administrations have no power to grant "refugee" status to any foreigner, and India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
A one-year state of emergency has been declared in Myanmar, where power has been transferred to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing after President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained by the military on February 1.
Meanwhile, the Mizoram government has decided to enrol children of Myanmarese refugees into the state government schools.
Last week, Mizoram's School Education Director James Lalrinchhana, referring to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act-2009), had asked all the district and sub-divisional education officials that children aged between 6 and 14 years belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to schools in a class appropriate to his or her age for completing elementary education.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])