They are our brothers; sending them back will mean killing them, says lawmaker
A Rajya Sabha member from the Mizo National Front (MNF) said on Tuesday that more than 300 people who have entered Mizoram from Myanmar fearing the military crackdown in that country include pregnant women and children.
K. Vanlalvena The Hindu that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was indulging in doublespeak as the Chief Minister had been assured recently that no one will be deported but on the other hand, the Ministry sent letter to the State governments of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram that people fleeing the coup should be identified and deported. The four States share a border with Myanmar.
The Tatmadaw, or Myanmar military, had taken over the country after a coup on February 1.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha during zero hour, Mr. Vanlalvena said, “Over 300 Myanmar nationals who have crossed border include 150 police personnel who favoured the (pro-democracy )protestors. The State government and NGOs have given immediate help and shelter to these refugees. Meanwhile MHA has given directions to not entertain Myanmar refugees.”
“It will not go down well with people in Mizoram if the central government insists on deporting them. Being the largest democracy in the world, it is the responsibility of India to encourage and support any struggle to protect and uphold democratic rights and principles. They are our brothers; sending them back to Myanmar will mean killing them,” the MP added.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Vanlalvena said, “Most of them have relatives in our State. There are 16 to 17 roads that connect Myanmar to India, there is a small river, it is very easy to cross over to India. There is no fencing. The Mizoram government has also sent a petition to the National Human Rights Commission. They are not here for good; they will be sent back once the situation is peaceful. MHA should provide food and amenities to the refugees,” he said.
He said the refugees from Myanmar belong to the Chin ethnic group comprising Lai, Tidim-Zomi, Lusei and Hualngo tribes — related to the dominant Mizos in the Northeast.
“The Chief Minister spoke to Home Minister Amit Shah and he was promised that no refugee will be deported to Myanmar. But he gave this assurance about those who have already entered and now MHA has sent a letter to send them back,” the MP said.
MHA in a letter dated March 10 to the four States said the State governments have no powers to grant “refugee” status to any foreigner” and India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that “all foreign nationals (including asylum seekers)” are governed by the various of law.
“However, a standard operating procedure (SoP) was issued in 2011 by the Central Government and amended in 2019 which has to be followed by law enforcement agencies while dealing with foreign nationals who claim to be refugees,” the reply stated.
Almost 400 escapees
The Mizoram government has said 383 Myanmar nationals, including women and children have crossed over .
Mizoram’s Home Department officials told local journalists in State capital Aizawl that 297 of the asylum-seekers who entered five border districts have been verified while the remaining 86 are yet to be verified.
The unofficial number of Chin refugees is at least twice that of the official figure of 383.
“About 98% of the Myanmar nationals claim that they belong to the police force and fire service. They chose to leave the country rather than obey the military regime,” the local publications said, quotingd unnamed Home Department officials.
Six Mizoram districts – Hnahthial, Champhai, Lawngtlai, Saitual, Serchhip and Siaha – share a 404-km border with Myanmar’s Chin State.
Officials said only Saitual has not reported the entry of any refugee from Myanmar since the coup.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga and the State’s MPs have preferred a humanitarian approach, offering them temporary shelter and food.
“The influx could not be prevented because much of the border is porous. They cannot be pushed back now because it is against humanitarian values,” officials in the State were quoted as saying.