The Mizoram government, which has been issuing certificates of identity to around 24,000 Myanmar refugees, will complete the process within this month (April) for better management of all aspects, including providing relief to the displaced foreign nationals, Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana said on Tuesday.
After a military coup was declared in Myanmar on February 1 last year and subsequent violent clashes between the Myanmar Army and the local civilian defence forces in Chin state and other parts of the neighbouring country, around 24,000 men, women and children of that country crossed over to the bordering Indian state seeking shelter.
The majority of the Myanmarese who have taken shelter belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos, who dominate the state’s 1.2 million tribal populations.
“The local indigenous people and the Myanmarese are akin to their face and all physical characters. Language and other life styles are also the same. That’s why we have started issuing certificates of identity cards to these refugees since January,” the Home Minister told IANS over phone.
He said that this temporary photo-affixed identity card is for identification only and shall serve no other purpose, official or otherwise and this card is not transferable. “The certificates of identity would facilitate to provide relief and other assistance to the genuine Myanmar refugees,” Lalchamliana said.
About the media reports that the Mizoram government has got some financial assistance from the central government, the Home Minister said that he is not aware of this central support. A senior Home Department official said that following the decision of the state government, the 26 Sub-Divisional Officers under the 11 districts have been providing the certificates of identity since January to the refugees sheltered in those areas. The identity certificate has incorporated the details like name of the bearer, father’s name, date of birth, place of origin, present address in Mizoram.
After the Myanmarese had started entering in Mizoram (few in Manipur) since March last year, the Union Home Ministry had sent out an advisory to four northeastern states — Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh — which share a 1,640-km unfenced border with Myanmar, saying that the states and UTs have no power to grant “refugee” status to any foreigner, and Bharat is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
Of Mizoram’s 11 districts, Siaha district, located along the Bharat-Myanmar border, is currently sheltering around 9,500 refugees, followed by Champhai that accomodating 7,900 refugees.
Some refugees are staying with their relatives in Mizoram. A total of 143 relief camps have been set up in different districts by the Young Mizo Associations (YMA) and churches.
The Myanmar nationals took shelter in all the 11 districts of the state with Siaha district housing the highest at 8,381, followed by Champhai (5,925) and Lawngtlai (5,409).
Several delegations from Mizoram led by the state’s Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga and Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena had also met Union ministers, DoNER Minister G. Kishan Reddy, in Delhi and senior officials of the Home and External Affairs Ministries over the Myanmar nationals and requested them to provide shelter officially and release financial assistance.
Earlier, Reddy, while talking to the Mizoram MPs, had indicated to treat the Myanmar refugees as “tourists”, not refugees.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had written several letters and spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to provide relief, required aid and asylum to the Myanmar nationals as the state government was facing a financial crisis to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and related problems.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modifed headline and minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)