Updated: March 21, 2021 7:57:50 am
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and allow political asylum to refugees from neighbouring Myanmar with “a human catastrophe of gigantic proportions happening in Myanmar right in front of our eyes”.
The coup in Myanmar has led to an unusual schism across the border in Mizoram.
The state government of Mizo National Front, which has extended issue-based support to the NDA, is in favour of allowing refugees from Myanmar, even laying down a policy to assist them. The Centre has, however, asked all bordering states and the force guarding the border to prevent the influx and deport those who have come in since the coup, mainly police personnel.
“The whole country is in turmoil and innocent hapless citizens are being persecuted and killed by the military regime who are supposed to be their guardians and protectors,” he said, and added that “every day terrified Myanmar citizens are struggling to cross over to Mizoram in search of shelter and protection”.
The CM mentioned that the “Myanmar areas bordering Mizoram are inhabited by Chin communities who are ethnically our Mizo brethren with whom we have been having close contacts throughout these years even before India became independent.” “Therefore Mizoram cannot remain indifferent to their suffering today. India cannot turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis unfolding right in front of us in our own backyard,” he said.
Zoramthanga informed Modi about the Union Home Ministry’s advisories to deport the refugees, and said, “this is not acceptable to Mizoram”. He said that while he understands that some foreign policy issues require India to “proceed cautiously” but “we cannot ignore this humanitarian crisis”.
He also said that as the world’s largest democracy and Myanmar’s immediate neighbour India needs to “do more and open up more in this matter and urged him to intervene “so that the political refugees from Myanmar are given asylum and provided food and shelter here in the country”.
The Indian Express had reported on March 19 quoting top sources that Assam Rifles, which guards the 510-km India-Myanmar Border (IMB) in Mizoram, had informed the Centre in early March that the state is “supporting the movement” of refugees and has “promulgated an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to manage” them. The SOP has since been withdrawn.
Assam Rifles also told the Centre that it is not “in sync” with the state government on the issue and that their “rather contradictory” positions “can result in deterioration” of their “working relation”.
The force warned that because of the coup, “the situation is volatile and there are inputs of a likely refugee crisis”. It informed that by early March, a number of refugees had been “successfully pushed back” and the “balance have been provided shelter by the state administration” although there were inputs of “more such crossings across the IMB”.
According to sources, Assam Rifles recommended that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) pass “necessary directions…so that the state government doesn’t facilitate any such movement of Myanmar nationals seeking refuge in Indian territory”.
On February 27, the Mizoram government had issued an SOP for the “facilitation of refugees and migrants from Myanmar in connection with the political developments” there. It directed deputy commissioners of all districts to identify Myanmar nationals crossing over and provide daily updates to the state’s Home department.
It said that “only those persons (and their family members), whose life is in immediate and imminent threat due to political/ organisational affiliations in connection with the political development shall be facilitated and treated as refugees”.
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