By Sujit Chakraborty
Aizawl, Sep 24 (IANS): A small section of the 30,401 Myanmar nationals, who have taken shelter in Mizoram in different phases since the military junta seized power in February last year, are trying to purchase lands and conduct petty business, or opening shops forced the state government to issue strict order restraining the migrants from doing so.
Mizoram police officers said that after the starting of the arrival of refugees, the smuggling of varied and highly addictive drugs, arms and ammunition, exotic animals, dried areca nuts, foreign cigarettes, various tobacco products and many other contraband from Myanmar increased to a large extent.
Police and para-military officials on condition of anonymity said that both the nationals of Myanmar and India are involved in the illegal trades.
In the latest such smuggling case on September 21, Assam Rifles troopers seized huge quantities of Myanmar-bound arms, war-like items, air gun, air gun pellets, combat uniforms, radio sets, tactical vests, tactical gloves and boots valued at around Rs 16 lakh from Mizoram's Siaha district and arrested seven people, including five Myanmar nationals.
The alarming increase in smuggling activities involving Myanmar in Mizoram has also prompted the Central committee of Young Mizo Association (CYMA) to form Central Anti-Drug Squad (CADS) recently to deal with the growing illegal trades of contrabands especially drugs.
The Mizoram government has instructed the Myanmar refugees, presently taking shelter in all the 11 districts of the state, not to purchase land, house and run business without prior permission from the state government.
The government order has come after the several reports that the Myanmar migrants are trying to purchase lands, opening up of small shops and running up of small business in the districts along the Myanmar border.
The state government order also barred refugees from any attempt to enroll for Aadhaar card, voter identity card, driving license or any other government documents.
The Mizoram government has provided temporary identity cards to the refugees for identification purposes to differentiate the holder from Indian citizens and the ID card is not valid for availing the government's scheme and outside Mizoram.
As per official records, majority of around 30,400 Myanmar refugees including 11,798 children and 10,047 women are sheltered in Mizoram in over 156 camps in all the 11 districts while a large number of them took shelter in the relatives' houses, community, centers, rented houses, government buildings and shelter houses set up by various NGOs including the CYMA, northeast India's one of the largest NGOs.
There are 14 lawmakers of Myanmar who are also among those who fled the trouble-torn country and took refuge in Mizoram.
The Myanmarese are provided with food, medicines and other relief materials by the state government, NGOs, churches and village authorities.
The government notification also asked the refugees to inform the concerned authority or village level committee on Myanmar refugees about their vehicles, which they have brought from their country.
"All local or village level committees must ensure that the government order is strictly followed and report to the chairman of the district task group on Myanmar refugees in case of violation of the order," the notification said.
Mountainous Mizoram with a population of 1.1 million (2011 census), India's second least populous state shares a 510-km long porous and unfenced border with Myanmar.
The Myanmar nationals, who took shelter in Mizoram, are mostly from Chin communities, who share ethnicity and ancestry with the Mizos.
Since last year, Chief Minister Zoramthanga, two Parliament Members -- C. Lalrosanga (Lok Sabha) and K. Vanlalvena (Rajya Sabha) have been urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, DoNER Minister G. Kishan Reddy and other top central officials to provide humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar nationals.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, who also met Union Home Minister on Thursday (Sep 22) and discussed the Myanmar refugee issue, had written several letters to Prime Minister urging him to provide relief, required aid and asylum to the Myanmar nationals as the state government was facing a financial crisis to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and related problems.
The state government had constituted a high level committee headed by Home Minister Lalchamliana to monitor the Myanmar refugees due to a continuous rise in the number of refugees fleeing to the state.
Apart from this, the government also set up a task group on Myanmar refugees, district level committees chaired by Deputy Commissioners and village or local level committees (under the chairmanship of village council president) to oversee the refugee issue.
A fresh wave of refugees from Myanmar crossed into Mizoram earlier this month for shelter after the Myanmar armed forces launched a fresh offensive against civilians and Arakan Army militants.
Officials, quoting the sources across the border, said that the Myanmar Army started attacking different villages of Chin state along the India-Myanmar borders since August 30, and residents of Varang and adjoining villages had started vacating their homes and taking shelter in Mizoram.
The Myanmar villagers used boats to bring all their belongings, rations and livestock into Mizoram.
The hapless men, women and children had crossed the Tiau river by small country boat and were tracking the forested routes before reaching Mizoram.
Around 31,000 Myanmar nationals, including 11,798 children and 10,047 women, have taken shelter in 11 districts of Mizoram since the military junta led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing seized power in the neighbouring country in February last year.
There are 14 lawmakers of Myanmar who are also among those who fled the trouble-torn country and took refuge in Mizoram, which shares a 510 km unfenced border with the neighbouring country.
The majority of the Myanmarese who have taken shelter belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos, who dominate Mizoram.
The Myanmar nationals taking shelter in Mizoram since the military junta led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing seized power in the neighbouring country in February last year.