Burma refugees yes or no ?
Friends of Burma want to know whether the Government of India has accepted the Burmese citizens entering the country as refugees in the post 1st Feb, 2021 scenario. It is an undeclared fact that thousands of Burmese citizens have entered India particularly in the Northeast after the sudden regime change in Burma. Locally it is acknowledged that hundreds of thousand Burmese citizens are taking shelter in India particularly in the Northeastern States. It is quite evident from the fact that Mizoram State Government has made an announcement giving permission to Burmese children to study in their schools and institutions.
One of my close associates taunted me after his regular drinks “how can you write or express your views on anything, are you omniscient? Don’t you think that you are exposing your ignorance and stupidity every Sunday?” He is a very close friend of mine, a professor type ‘adami’ with a PhD degree having written many unreadable books. I don’t mind his admonition because what he says is right to some extent; I simply told him that I never claim that I am an expert in any field; my knowledge is superficial but I am trying to flag certain issues which I think are important for the people and the State. My weekly poking business is only to highlight the issues, nothing more or nothing less.
Perhaps Mizoram is the only State in the Northeast which openly says that there are Burmese citizens taking refuge in their State. Other States like Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh are yet to come out with facts and figures on Burmese citizens – already arrived. Influx is easily possible because of the porous borders. According to an unauthenticated source there are several thousand Burmese nationals taking shelter in the border States of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh. Maximum numbers are in Manipur and Mizoram. This is perhaps because of a common local language factor; ethnic groups on both sides of the border speak Kuki-Chin-Mizo language (lingua franca).
Once we give the refugee status to a particular people or ethnic group or national, International laws will start operating. India is an active member of UN and at present holding the Chair of Security Council as a non Permanent Member. It has a very big role to play in the international arena. And at the same time Burma is its immediate neighbor in the east, a friendly country. So, Indian diplomats must be having a tough time to take decisions and work out a plausible policy. In fact India has to strike a balance between its bilateral relation with Burma and international obligations.
From the very beginning, we as a nation, preaching and practicing democracy; we always prefer democratically elected government to any other forms of government. However we are supposed to deal with all kinds of governments and regimes. We are to deal with all the 250 odd nations of the world including Afghanistan today.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or commonly known as UN refugees Agency is a global organization which looks after the wellbeing and settlement of international refugees displaced by war, conflict or calamities. The United Nations General Assembly mandates that the UNHCR provide aids, protection to refugees, displaced communities and stateless people. UNHRC is also responsible to assist in the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees; also it helps in repatriation or integration or resettlement.
In Burma there was an uncomfortable calm after the 2020 November national elections in which the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won overwhelmingly. Military sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Party failed to perform well, even in their strongholds. Military refused to endorse the election results citing unfair polling. The uncomfortable calm culminated to a Power shift on 1st February 2021 in favor of the military. The UN maintains that Burmese military action deviates from democracy; in response the ruling JUNTA says they are holding elections within 2 years.
It is not proper to comment on the politics and political situation of a very friendly country. Moreover Burma is our immediate neighbor. Change in the power dynamics in Burma should not largely deteriorate the relationship. The comfort level may be fluctuating; but the diplomatic ties must continue. Things are lined up to take up with Burma. Diplomatic faux pas is not expected at this stage.
In a reply to a question the Defense Ministry responded in Parliament that there are about 8400 Burmese citizens taking shelter in India. We are not very sure about the number. The Ministry of Home Affairs and MEA are silent on this matter; there may be diplomatic compulsions.
However at the ground level we are facing a reality - presence of Burmese nationals in large numbers in the Northeast; are we going to vaccinate the Burmese nationals? Are we providing rice/ food to them? Are we extending medical aids to them? Are we allowing them to stay in and around? State Governments in the Northeast are literally facing these queries from the local authorities. Waiting for a concrete response/policy from the Centre, is what they are told.
Ranjan ji should not be left alone for this intricate matter. Mayday Mayday, Shanker ji, Modi ji.