The foreigner detection exercise, which began in early February, is being carried out under the joint initiative of the state home department and local administration department Credit: Representational image

Aizawl: The Mizoram government has launched a massive drive to detect foreigners and is currently carrying out the exercise alongside the identification of unauthorised villages across the state. This comes at a time when a household register bill to identify between genuine residents and foreigners is pending with the Centre for approval.

The exercise, which began in early February, is being carried out under the joint initiative of the state home department and local administration department (LAD), a senior official said on Wednesday.

LAD secretary Rodney Ralte said that there are about 19 unauthorised villages in four Mizoram districts — Lunglei, Champhai, Mamit and Serchhip — allegedly established by Bangladeshi immigrants.

Majority of the illegal villages are located in south Mizoram’s Lunglei district, three in Champhai district, two in Mamit district and another one in Serchhip district, he said.

He said that the unauthorised villages are inhabited mostly by the Chakmas and Bru communities.

According to Ralte, strong appeal from civil society groups and student bodies has prompted the state government to carry out foreigner detection drive.

He said that identification of the inhabitants or residents of the unauthorised villages is in progress under the supervision of district deputy commissioners to ascertain if they are foreigners.

“Genuine residents of the state will be asked to return to their parent villages in the state while foreigners would be pushed back to their respective countries,” Ralte said.

He ruled out the allegation that the government is taking up National Register of Citizens (NRC)-like exercise.

“No NRC exercise has been carried out anywhere in the state. The state government is only identifying illegal villages and foreigners as per the existing law,” he said.

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He said that the state government also issued notification banning developmental activities in all the unauthorized settlements and also asked churches and NGOs to refrain from taking up such developmental activities.

Officials of LAD said that Tuichawngchhuah, an illegal village inhabited by Chakma communities in Lunglei district, which was served eviction order in May last year, has been deserted by the residents, who shifted to nearby Tuichawng village.

They also said that Belva, another illegal village in the same district, has also been vacated.

Earlier this month, Chakma politicians and leaders, including BJP’s lone legislator Buddha Dhan Chakma, and the party’s national council member Nirupam Chakma have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to stop the alleged “illegal NRC” being conducted by the Mizoram government specifically targeting the Chakmas.

“The illegal survey has been conducted in at least 14 Chakma-inhabited villages of Lunglei district. No such survey is being conducted in any Mizo-inhabited villages,” they said in the letter.

The Buddhist Chakmas are a minority in Christian-dominated Mizoram and are mainly concentrated in two districts — Lunglei and Lawngtlai — near the Bangladesh border.

In March last year, the state legislature passed ‘The Mizoram Maintenance of Household Registers Bill, 2019’, which seeks to identify foreigners in the state.

The Bill is pending with the Centre for approval.

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