Other States

28 stranded on bridge to Myanmar brought back to Mizoram

People from Mizoram locked out on a bridge on the border between India and Myanmar, March 30, 2020

People from Mizoram locked out on a bridge on the border between India and Myanmar, March 30, 2020   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Mizos, including 11 children, who had gone to Myanmar to visit relatives, have been quarantined

Stranded in no man’s land on a Bailey bridge between India and Myanmar for two nights, 28 inhabitants of Mizoram were brought back on Sunday night and quarantined.

The 50-foot bridge on the Tiau river connects Zokhawthar in Mizoram’s Champhai district and Rih in Myanmar.

In August 2018, India opened a land immigration checkpost at Zokhawthar, the State’s second such facility along the border with Myanmar after Zorinpui in Lawngtlai district.

The 28 Mizos, including 11 children, had gone to Myanmar to visit relatives much before the border was sealed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent countrywide lockdown for 21 days.

“Until the sealing, both countries were allowing border residents to travel to each other’s territory up to 16 km due because of a free movement agreement. These Mizo villagers were not aware of the lockdown and when they arrived at the border, the Myanmar sentries put them on the bridge and locked their end,” said T.J. Lalnuntluanga, Mizoram’s Minister of State for Transport, Law, Parliamentary Affairs Department and Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

“But the Assam Rifles personnel manning the border locked the Indian end of the gate too, forcing the men, women and children to spend two nights on the bridge with no food, shelter and toilet,” Mr Lalnuntluanga told The Hindu from Aizawl.

Zokhawthar falls within the Champhai South Assembly constituency that he represents.

Local officials and members of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) tried to get the stranded people released but Assam Rifles officials said the gate could be opened only after instructions from the appropriate authority.

CM’s intervention

Chief Minister Zoramthanga and Home Minister Lalchamliana intervened and let the Ministry of Home Affairs know “bringing the Mizo villagers was as important as flying resourceful Indians in from foreign lands”.

The communication to the Assam Rifles took time. The stranded 28 were released at 6 p.m. on Sunday and taken to a facility at the Champhai Deputy Commissioner’s office where they have been quarantined.

“What happened to those people was inhuman. It seemed they were put in an open-air jail for no fault of theirs. Members of the Zokhawthar Task Force and YMA provided them food while they were caught in no man’s land,” local village council president Muani said.

The YMA also provided tarpaulin and other tent materials while they were on the bridge, officials said.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:31:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/28-stranded-on-bridge-to-myanmar-brought-back-to-mizoram/article31207185.ece

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