Against the backdrop of continued rioting in Manipur, citizens of Myanmar who are “temporarily sheltering” in India because of the military crackdown back home should stay away from political matters and ethnic conflicts, the rebel National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar has said in a public notice. The timing of the announcement is significant as a large number of Kuki population of Kuki Chin and Sagaing regions of Myanmar have taken refuge in Mizoram and Manipur after the February 1, 2021 military coup.
“There were some reports earlier that people from Myanmar were involved in the developments in Manipur. We do not think that is correct and we have asked our citizens to stay away from domestic political processes in India,” a leading member of the NUG’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Hindu on Saturday. The public announcement has urged the displaced individuals “to live in harmony and appropriately with host communities and follow the religious and social rules in the wards or villages” that they are residing in.
They have also been advised “to be cautious and avoid unnecessary involvement in political and administrative matters (eg. political parties’ election campaigns).” The disturbing chain of riots and ethnic killings in Manipur over the last two months has often been portrayed as a fallout of the developments in Myanmar.
The Hindu reported on Saturday that an Imphal-based politician was booked for sedition and for promoting enmity between groups. Jagat Thoudam wrote an article saying the present crisis in Manipur was the creation of Assam Rifles that allegedly has been biased towards Myanmar-based Kuki groups.
The conflict in Manipur has divided the society along the Meitei-Kuki lines and has vitiated atmosphere across the strategically important region. The NUG’s statement also urged the refugees from Myanmar “not to get involved in illegal trafficking of drugs and wild animals, and related matters.” The Kuki ethnic group is one of the largest trans-border tribal groups in the region spread across northeastern India (Mizoram, Manipur), Myanmar (Kuki-Chin region) and Bangladesh (Chittagong hill tract).
Leading politicians of Manipur had earlier accused Myanmar-based armed groups of allegedly being involved in deforestation, poppy cultivation and the spread of narcotics in the northeast. According to an estimate of the NUG that was shared with The Hindu, there are at least 50,000 Kukis from Myanmar who have taken refuge in Mizoram after the coup of 2021. The Myanmar nationals were advised to stay in contact with leaders of their communities and with parliamentarians back home in case they faced difficulties.