Now, calls to include Chin refugees from Myanmar in Citizenship Bill

Published - January 29, 2019 01:55 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Eight organisations of the Chakma community, on Tuesday, submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking the inclusion of Chin refugees in India by further amending the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The Bill awaits passage or rejection in the Rajya Sabha.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee that submitted its recommendations to the Centre after a series of discussions with stakeholders had rejected suggestions to include minorities from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Bill seeks to fast-track the process of citizenship for non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and came to India till December 31, 2014.

The memorandum by the eight Chakma NGOs was made on the basis of a January 2009 report by the US-based Human Rights Watch titled ‘The Chin People of Burma: Unsafe in Burma, Unprotected in India’. The report said that there are an estimated 100,000 Chins in Mizoram, which is 20% of the total Chin population in Myanmar.

Manipur, too, has an unspecified number of Chins, who are ethnically related to the majority Mizos of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zomi groups in Manipur.

“The number of Chin refugees in India is at least 1.2 lakh over the years. In November 2017, about 1,600 Chins, many of whom were women and children, fled to Lawngtlai district of Mizoram following a military offensive against the Arakan Army militants in that country’s Chin State. While some went back, around 1,440 refugees have reportedly refused to return due to insecurity,” Dilip Kanti Chakma, president of the Delhi-based All India Chakma Students’ Union, told The Hindu .

About 4,000 Chin refugees are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi but in June 2018, the UNHCR decided to cancel their ‘refugee status’ with effect from 1 August 2018. The ‘cessation process’ would be completed by December 31 this year on the ground that Myanmar has now become “stable and secure” for them to return home and, therefore, they don’t need “international protection”.

“We appealed to the Centre to further amend the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill for including Myanmar along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan,” Mr Chakma said.

The Chakmas in Mizoram have been at the receiving end because of the Bill, which the Mizo NGOs say would open the floodgates for Chakmas from Bangladesh. The Chakmas have a sizeable population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

“It is a pity that some NGOs of Mizoram have never raised the issue of the Chin refugees while unnecessarily targeting the indigenous Chakmas who have an autonomous district council in the State under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution,” Mr Chakma said.

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