Days before ethnic violence erupted in Manipur, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla had asked the governments of Manipur and Mizoram to capture the “biographic and biometric details of illegal migrants”. This biometric information is to include retina, iris, and fingerprints.
The Ministry in a June 22 letter reminded the States to complete the exercise by September 30.
On April 28, Mr. Bhalla chaired a meeting on collating information pertaining to illegal migrants in the two States, which share border with Myanmar.
After a military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, over 40,000 refugees from the neighbouring country have taken shelter in Mizoram and around 4,000 refugees are said to have entered Manipur. The refugees belonging to the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group comprising the Lai, Tidim-Zomi, Lusei and Hualngo tribes are closely related to the communities in Mizoram and Manipur. India and Myanmar share a 1,643 km-long border and people on either side have familial ties. The Mizoram government arranged relief camps for the refugees.
“In this context, it is further mentioned that a campaign for capturing of biometric data of the illegal migrants in the States of Manipur and Mizoram is to be completed by the end of September, 2023. The State governments of Manipur and Mizoram are requested to quickly prepare the plan and initiate the biometric capture of the illegal migrants,” according to the letter sent to the Manipur government.
Rajkumar Imo Singh, BJP legislator from Sagolband in Imphal West, shared the Home Ministry’s letter on Twitter on Monday. He said the Manipur government had already started the campaign earlier this year, due to which nearly 2,500 “illegal migrants” were identified. “All districts have to arrange this up to the police station level as per the standardised format of NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau). Looks like this is a step towards NRC (National Register of Citizens),” Mr. Rajkumar Imo Singh, three-time legislator and son-in-law of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, posted on Twitter.
The Ministry’s letter said that, earlier also, it had issued detailed instructions and guidelines on overstay and illegal migration of foreign nationals. The guidelines issued on March 30, 2021 were circulated again to all State governments on October 21, 2022 for compliance.
The 2021 letter to the Chief Secretaries of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh asked them to “take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India”, adding that the State governments have no powers to grant “refugee” status to “any foreigner”, and India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
The Governments of Manipur and Mizoram have appointed Nodal Officers to feed the data in the centralised illegal foreigner’s portal maintained by the Bureau of Immigration and the Home Ministry.
Manipur Chief Minister Mr. N. Biren Singh in a television interview on June 30 blamed illegal migrants from Myanmar for the ongoing violence.
As many as 10 people from Myanmar were being treated for injuries caused by explosives and bullets at district hospital in Churachandpur district in the hills, according to a report prepared by Churachandpur Superintendent of Police Karthik Malladi.
At least three are admitted since April 20, before the ethnic violence erupted and five others with bullet injuries were admitted at the government hospital between June 15-17.
The report said all the injured belonged to Tamu in Myanmar.