Updated 29 Jun 2022, 7:26 pm
The headlines screamed '80 Myanmar refugees arrested/detained in Churachandpur' in almost all the daily newspapers in Imphal. On the other hand, the Citizens Committee Manipur (CCM) appealed to the state government for a humane treatment of the Myanmar refugees as per the law of the land.
The first item reflects the concern of the general public with regard to Myanmar refugees crossing over to Indian territory to escape the onslaught of military rulers in recent times, when we are already in the throes of illegal migration and all its related problems.
A few days back, Chief Minister N Biren Singh made a cryptic remark that one cannot go by the wishes of a single community and has to take into consideration the wishes of every community while clarifying on the Cabinet decision of 1961 as the base year of implementing ILP in the state. It says a lot of things.
If we recall, the whole valley was in flames during the ILP agitation with the people in the valley expressing their concerns of their land being swamped over by illegal migrants whose population keeps increasing day by day and year by year.
When the government brought three bills to address the issue of illegal migration, people in the hills more particularly in Churachandpur district rose against the three bills when they were passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly and shut off all communications with the state government for nearly three long years.
It is on record that, when BJP took over the government in 2017 the indefinite blockade on national highways and Churachandpur issue was resolved. Recently, the United Naga Council and Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) came out together and expressed their commitment to fight the issue of illegal migration together. Well, it speaks volumes on who is for and against illegal migration in the state?
Coming back to the arrest of 80 Myanmar refugees in Churachandpur district, initial reports suggest that they had crossed over to Indian territory in Chandel district and from there they had come to Churachandpur district and that they were sheltered by a Myanmar refugee who had crossed over in 1986 to Mizoram and came to Churachandpur in 2013.
Why do they come to Churachandpur instead of staying in Chandel? It is because Churachandpur has more people with whom they have close ethnic relations, including language and more sympathy. And this is not the first instance of Myanmar refugees migrating to Manipur. It has been going on for years and in fact, this migration was one of major concerns of the anti-foreigners movement in the 80s.
Now, these newcomers have taken over the political space after usurping the indigenous Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups already settled in the state. Therein lies the genesis of the violent objection to the three bills and the rejection of 1951 as base year for implementation of ILP. Having said that, we would like to discuss the CCM appeal for treating Myanmar refugees humanely.
Mizoram state has a humane and procedural response to Myanmar refugees who crossed over after the recent military clampdown. In Mizoram, the refugees are accounted for and rehabilitated in camps set up by the state government and voluntary organisations while Manipur adopts a different approach. The approach is hostile and full of barriers.
Most countries have a refugee problem and what is more important in such situations is regulating the flow of refugees under the watchful eyes of the government agencies. If the state is hostile to refugees, they will simply resort to covert infiltration and try to mix with the general population having close ethnic affiliations. So, the time has come for the state government to adopt a regulatory approach to the problem.
First published:29 Jun 2022, 7:26 pm
ChurachandpurMyanmar nationalsInner Line PermitMyanmar refugeesforged documentsfake documentsfake adhaar cardsILP permit Manipur