Aizawl: Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Wednesday dashed off another letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a reminder of his previous letters, asking the Centre to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar nationals, as the northeastern state began to witness a fresh influx of refugees from the neighbouring country.

Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga also called on Home Secretary (Border Management) Sanjeeva Kumar and Additional Home Secretary (North East) Piyush Goyal in Delhi on Wednesday and urged them to provide assistance to help the Myanmar nationals who are taking shelter in Mizoram.

The state planning board vice chairman, H. Rammawi, who is closely dealing with refugee affairs, said the CM sent a reminder to the Prime Minister over the plight of the Myanmar nationals, who fled their countries after the military junta seized power over a democratically elected government through a coup in February this year.

“The Chief Minister has written several times to the Centre and sent delegations since March seeking asylum and humanitarian aid for the Myanmar nationals. But the Centre ignored the appeal and remained silent on the issue for almost 7 months now,” he said.

Besides official letters, the Chief Minister has also communicated with the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the phone quite a number of times.

Rammawia, who has been in constant contact with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said the people of Mizoram are disappointed with the Centre for its apathy towards the plight and suffering of the innocent people from Myanmar.

He said he, along with two MPs from the state, had met with Union ministers and officials of the Home Ministry several times between March and April. They also met MEA officials when the Centre passed the ball of refugee issue to the ministry, asking them to review the country’s foreign policy towards Myanmar and to provide assistance to the Myanmar nationals,  but to no avail, he said.

“During our meeting with the MEA officials, they were convinced with the situation and the crisis faced by both the people of Mizoram and those from Myanmar. They also told us that the state deserves to receive assistance from the Centre. But the Cente remained inactive and not a single penny has been sanctioned in aid of the Myanmar refugee till date,” the Mizo National Front leader said.  

According to Rammawi, the state is now reeling under a financial crisis and also health infrastructure and manpower crunch due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had already crippled the state’s economy. 

While the state government, NGOs, churches and all parties are collectively fighting against the pandemic, the state is witnessing another crisis of refugee influx from Myanmar, he said.

“We can’t ignore the plight of the Myanmar nationals with whom we share ethnic ties and common ancestry. We can’t ask them to return as they came here to take shelter for fear of their lives,” Rammawi said, adding the community leaders and NGOs are providing shelter and food to the Myanmar people amid the pandemic.

He said the Centre should provide asylum to the Myanmar nationals and help them although India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.

According to the leader, over 20,000 people from Myanmar have already crossed over to Mizoram after the military coup in the neighbouring country in February. The exact figure is difficult to maintain as many refugees who are living with their families left unrecorded, he said.

He said more people will continue to trickle in because of the renewed clash between civilians and the Myanmar army after a Burmese government-in-exile called for a nationwide uprising on September 7 to overthrow the military junta.

Earlier, Mizoram Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga and Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena had also raised the issue of Myanmar refugees in Parliament.

Meanwhile,  C. Lalrosanga called on Sanjeeva Kumar and Piyush Goyal on Wednesday and raised concern over the plight of Myanmar nationals. He also urged the officials to provide relief (in cash and kind), including medical aid, to the Myanmar nationals, an official said.

Mizoram shares a 510-km long international boundary with Myanmar. Most of the Myanmar nationals, who entered the state since February end, are from the Chin state, who share ethnic ties with the Mizos.

While many live in relief camps or temporary shelters set up by villagers, others are accommodated by their relatives. Mizoram is already home to thousands of Chin communities of Myanmar, who migrated to the state since the late 1980s, fleeing the military junta in the neighbouring country. 

Also read | Two Myanmar nationals held with automatic rifles in Mizoram

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