It must be quite burdensome to them. The Mizoram government has sought ₹10 crore from the Centre to provide relief to 11,785 people displaced by ethnic violence in adjoining Manipur.
These Kukis began trickling in after violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, adding to some 40,000 ethnically-related people displaced from Myanmar and Bangladesh since February 2021.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga wrote two letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 16 and May 23, seeking financial support of about ₹10 crore to feed and take care of the other needs of the refugees from Manipur.
The chief minister said 11,785 tribal people from Manipur took shelter across the 11 districts of Mizoram, living temporarily in the houses of relatives, churches, and community halls. Kolasib district had the highest number of such refugees (4,296) followed by 3,837 in Aizawl and 2,855 in Saitual district.
Reports say, Centre has already sanctioned the money sought, though GoI discourages the admittance of such refugees.
On March 10, 2021, the Union Home Ministry wrote to the chief secretaries of the border states of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh to “take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India.”
It also reminded the states that, since India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, they have no power to grant “refugee status to any foreigner.”
The letter termed the movement of refugees due to the political coup in Myanmar as an “illegal influx of foreigners,” thereby making its position clear on refugees from Myanmar. However, Mizoram CM stood his ground and continued to provide shelter and rations to the refugees.
Like the Mizos, the Chin and Kukis belong to the racial stock of Tibeto-Mongoloid. They share similar linguistic and cultural identities.
The Chin state in Myanmar, one of the most-affected states of Myanmar, shares its boundary with Mizoram and Manipur.
A free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar allows citizens living in an area within 16 km in either side of the borders to travel up to 16 km with border pass and stay up to two weeks per visit.
We have nothing against the Mizoram government for providing shelter to the Myanmar refugees and Manipuri Kukis as well. Rather, the humanitarian gesture on its part is appreciated.
However, if Chief Minister Zoramthanga begins to interfere in the internal matters of Manipur it would be considered hostile.
Lately, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has become active and indulgent in Manipur after the violence. His party Mizo National National Front (MNF) has been stoking the dream of Greater Mizoram once again and Manipur MLAs belonging to Kuki-Chin-Mizo have been trying to garner their support.
Well, Mizoram assembly elections are round the corner and as usual the question of a Greater Mizoram always crops up at such times.
But, Mizoram must understand that this time the circumstances are different as we have seen a Mizoram CSO issuing ‘Quit Notice’ to Meiteis residing in the state. The consequences could have been devastating, had the state not acted upon it.
As Meiteis started leaving the state, an Assam based Manipuri organisation also retaliated by issuing a similar notice to Mizos residing in Barak valley. For now, the tense situation has subsided. But, damage had been done to the already strained community relationship.
One must also understand that inter-community relations in Mizoram are not that rosy and Zo identity is still in the making. This is also due to the resistance of the process of “Mizoisation” by smaller cognate tribes like the Paites and Hmars who also live across the border in Manipur’s Churachandpur district.
The assertion by Hmars for establishing an autonomous region in Mizoram is much alive.
The friction between minority political aspirations and the state government continues till today. So, Mizoram must attend to their internal affairs before stoking the fire in Manipur.
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