Other States

Government in a spot over forced repatriation of Myanmar refugee

A video clip showing Mizoram Police dragging a woman refugee out of a hut and pushing her back into Myanmar, has put the government in a spot, following criticism from a human rights group based in southeast Asia.

The footage shows the woman crying for help as Mizoram police women forcibly pull her out of the hut and drag her away. A toddler and a young girl are also seen in the video.

An official from the Mizoram government said the Lawngtlai district administration, with the help of the State police and the Assam Rifles, pushed the Buddhist refugees back into Myanmar on July 2. The move came after authorities in the neighbouring country backed off from their promise — made during a June 30 flag meeting — to take them back, he said.

The Assam Rifles is deployed in Mizoram to guard the border along Myanmar.

Centre’s directions

“As directed by the Centre, we repatriated the Myanmar nationals who illegally entered India,” Mizoram Home Secretary Lalbiakzama, told The Hindu.

On July 2, as many as 219 refugees from Chin in Myanmar, living in a camp at Hmawngbuchhua in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district since 2017, were handed over to the Myanmar army without documentation. A senior government official told The Hindu that a high level meeting of officials from Ministries of Defence, External Affairs and Home, convened a fortnight ago, decided to send back the refugees after reaching an understanding with the Myanmar army.

“A consensus was reached to send them back; the Myanmar army was taken on board and they agreed to take them back. They had come without papers, most of them went back willingly. There was only one aberration where a woman was forcibly taken away. It is being looked into,” said the official.

Reacting to the criticism after the southeast Asia based NGO, Fortify Rights, put out the video, the State government said on Monday that the eviction was done on the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Remnants of group

Some 1,500 Buddhist Rakhine refugees had in 2017 fled conflict between the Myanmar military and the extremist Arakan Army (AA). Most of the refugees left in a little over a year but 219 of them chose to stay back.

“We made the necessary arrangement, provided them with vehicles and helped them cross over the border,” said the official.

Other State officials said the MHA had instructed the Mizoram government to deport the refugees and use force if necessary.

‘Painful task’

In a Facebook post, Lawngtlai’s Deputy Commissioner Shashanka Ala said the pushback was organised in the most humanitarian way possible. “The exercise was to be carried out from a village which has no road in the peak monsoon season, with refugees who do not understand a single word of any Indian language. However, with a determined team the task was accomplished and they have been pushed to Myanmar,” she said.

“It was extremely tough for us to take little children and women out of their huts and send them, it’s a pain I’ll never forget. But the law of the land prevails. I really wish that the refugees find greener pastures in their own country and God gives them strength to sustain what’s ahead of them,” Ms Ala wrote.

But, she insisted, the exercise was “for our country”. She said the refugees were peacefully moved with “a human face and adequate food and supplies.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 3:37:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/government-in-a-spot-over-forced-repatriation-of-myanmar-refugee/article28323540.ece

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