Mizoram prioritizes ethnicity and humanity over financial crisis to support Myanmar refugees

About 700 households in Zokhawthar in Champhai district of Mizoram continue to provide refugees to 800 families from Myanmar over the past year. And that’s not all.

Mizoram had seen an influx of more than 26,600 Burmese refugees through March this year since the February 2021 military coup, a majority from adjacent Chin State.

Strange as it may sound, for the Mizos it’s more about helping their brothers in these difficult times, who may not return home in another decade.

Prioritizing humanity and ethnicity over the economic crisis that could soon strike if the influx continues at such an exponential rate, the state’s resolve to support the Burmese could not be shattered even by the refusal of the Union government to recognize the problem.

Sem sem dam dam (One who shares lives)

“In Mizo, we have the saying ‘Sem sem dam dam, ei bil thi’ which means ‘He who shares lives (survives), he who accumulates dies’. And the refugee camps are all Mizos, so locals can’t just ignore them,” said a veteran Mizoram journalist.

Zokhawthar is just one example. A population of around 3,500 in Zokhawthar in Champhai district is caring for 2,941 refugees who fled their native homes in neighboring Myanmar to escape the junta, Lalmuanpuia, the village council chairman told TNM.

“Most of the villagers are not economically healthy…they mainly depend on agriculture. We may not have enough, but these people are from our own tribe, our own people. Currently funds are being provided by several NGOs and the Mizoram government,” Lalmuanpuia said.

Four northeastern states – Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh – share a 1,640 km unfenced border with Myanmar. Mizoram alone shares a 510 km long border. Last year, the Union Home Office issued a notice that states and union territories do not have the power to grant “refugee” status to a foreigner, and that India was not a signatory to the agreement. 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol. This has not deterred the Mizos who are determined to provide refuge.

According to government records, up to 26,663 Myanmar nationals have taken refuge in different parts of the 11 districts of Mizoram, PTI reported in late March 2022.

Of the 22,098 displaced Burmese nationals who took refuge in the six districts following the military coup in the trouble-torn country, Champhai has the highest number at 7,810 followed by Siaha district with 6,614 , according to the records.

Mizoram prioritizes ethnic humanity over financial crisis to support Myanmar refugees 3 – The News Mill

Influx seen as a disguised ‘homecoming’

For many Mizos, the influx of refugees is actually a “homecoming” of several thousand people who were separated during Indian independence or fled the state during the Front uprising. National Mizo in 1966.

Samuel Zoramthanpuia, General Secretary of the Mizo Student Union (MSU) said The news mill“There is a strong servitude between the Chin and Mizo communities. Historically, we were Kuki-Chin-Mizo, bound by our lineage. We should have been one, if Mizoram had not been subjugated to India after the British left. Until today, most of our ancestors are from Myanmar.

“Thousands of families also fled to the neighboring country during the 1966 uprising or Operation Jericho. Many of those who fled have settled there. Even today, many Mizos have their families in Chin State (in Myanmar). Now that they have escaped due to the military coup, it is actually like returning to their true homeland; at least that is the case for the most part,” he added.

Similar thoughts were expressed by villagers of Tuipuiral in Champhai district which hosts the majority of refugee camps.

Crores spent to support exponential influx

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga informed the state legislature in March that his government had provided over Rs 380 lakh as humanitarian aid to help the refugees.

“Some of them live in rented houses, but most take refuge in camps set up by the village councils and the Young Mizo association. In addition to funds provided by the state government, there have been substantial public donations, both from individuals and NGOs. Every appeal for public donation has been well returned,” a local said.

Mizoram prioritizes ethnic humanity over financial crisis to support Myanmar refugees 4 – The News Mill

MC Lalramenga, President of the Young Mizo Association of Tuipuiral said: “NGOs and associations are collecting fabrics, blankets, firewood, food and other basic necessities to provide to the refugees. But they also showed up to make a living here and do whatever work they could.

Speaking about the possible impact of the refugees on the state, MSU’s Zoramthanpuia added that being from the same tribe, the refugees have easily adapted to the native community. “The blow was very sudden and they just walked out empty-handed. But now that we embrace them, the Burmese cooperate and mingle well. Mizoram is rich in agriculture. NGOs help them with labor and they are involved in shifting cultivation and jhum besides other laborious activities.

Additional financial support has also been received from international agencies.

However, Lalramenga opined that since many live in rented accommodation, if they do not have suitable work or livelihoods, the refugees could face an acute financial crisis. “They have to pay rent, electricity bills, water bills and such. They have come with some savings or are receiving support from their families. But if their stay is prolonged, without a stable income, they will soon face a crisis situation.

It is worth mentioning that the Mizoram government has facilitated the education of Burmese children and even additional classes to help them deal with the language barrier. Additionally, the Mizoram government planned to provide them with identity cards as most were forced to flee the country in a hurry without any meaningful documents.

Asked about their identity, the local leaders replied: “Assam has an immigration problem and despite the opposition, they have done their papers. In our case, the Mizo people welcomed and supported refugees like ours. Certainly, some means will be facilitated by the government for the processing of their documents and for their benefits.

Comments are closed.