Kuki-Chin refugees

Aizawl: Hundreds of people under the banner of Young Mizo Association (YMA), the largest civil society organisation in Mizoram, took to the street on Monday in protest against the alleged denial of entry to ethnic Kuki-Chin (Mizo) refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh into Indian territory by security forces.

The demonstration held near the Raj Bhavan in Aizawl was also a token of solidarity to the Kuki-Chin people, who sought shelter in Mizoram after fleeing their homes due to the alleged military offensive by the Bangladesh army against the Kuki-Chin National Army, an ethnic insurgent group that demands political safeguard for the Kuki-Chin community in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)

The Central YMA claimed that more than 900 people belonging to the Kuki-Chin community in CHT, who are ethnic Mizos, were denied entry and pushed back from the Indo-Bangladesh border while attempting to enter Mizoram to take refuge. 

CYMA president R. Lalngheta expressed disappointment over the alleged inhuman act of the security forces by preventing the Kuki-Chin people seeking shelter in Mizoram from entering the state. 

CYMA general secretary Prof. Lalnuntluanga said a senior citizen aged about 81 had died of starvation in a jungle near Mizoram border when he was denied entry to the state by the Border Security Forces (BSF), which guards the Indo-Bangladesh border. 

He urged the Centre to provide shelter, food and other reliefs to the Kuki-Chin asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds like it had done to the Afghans, Tibetans, Sri Lankans and other Bangladeshi refugees.

The protesters also carried banners and placards that read “stop blockade, let our Mizo refugees come in,” ” we request the government of India not to push back the Mizo asylum seekers from Bangladesh.”

Apart from laymen, MLAs and ministers, including Power and Electricity Minister R. Lalzirliana, Revenue minister Lalruatkima and sports minister Robert Romawia Royte and opposition legislators also took part at the solidarity protest.

Mizoram’s apex student body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) president Lalnunmawia Pautu alleged that the security forces discriminated against the ethnic Mizo.

He said that thousand of Chakma people from CHT were allowed to cross the international border in 1970. 

Fleeing atrocities due to armed conflict between Bangladesh Rapid ActionBattalion (RAB) and Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA), a total 388 people, including 133 minors, from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have taken refuge in south Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district since November last year, an official said.

The first batch of asylum seekers numbering about 272 entered the Indian state on November 20 and continue to trickle in small batches till now, he said.

The government, NGOs and villagers provided temporary shelters, food and other basic needs to the Bangladeshi nationals on humanitarian ground, he added. 

The Kuki-Chin community in Bangladesh share cose ethnic ties with the Mizos. 

Robert Romawia Royte also expressed solidarity to the Kuki-Chin people, who faced hardships due to armed clashes. 

He urged the Centre to have a soft corner and provide asylum to the Bangladeshi nationals. 

Meanwhile, the CYMA  on Monday wrote to the Union Home Secretary seeking refuge for the Kuki-Chin refugees in India.

The letter said that some people from Bangladesh were pushed back by the BSF while crossing the border on January 4 and were left without food and water in the forest for several days.

Consequently, Sawmkhup (81), a resident of Chheihkhiang village in Bangladesh and a retired pastor of Bangladesh Tribal Baptist Church died due to starvation in the forest, the letter said. 

“Therefore, in view of above cited unfortunate event/incident and

inhuman act which caused loss of a precious life due to the insensitive treatment of the forces, it is our sincere request to look into the matter on humanitarian grounds and to take urgent steps to stop  pushing back our brethren who have sought temporary refuge in our state for their immediate safety,” the CYMA said in its letter.

The letter also urged the Union Home Secretary to provide food, shelter and other basic needs to the Bangladeshi nationals on humanitarian grounds. 

Mizoram shares a 318-km long international border with Bangladesh.

The northeastern state has also been hosting nearly 40,000 refugees from Myanmar, who fled their homes since the military takeover in February 2021. 

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