Sunday, May 9, 2021

And so it begins

On January 29, eight organisations of the Chakma community 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, (CAB) The Hindu reports. The Bill is yet to be passed or rejected in the Rajya Sabha. Reportedly, 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 Hindu also reports that 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’ which stated that there are an estimated 100,000 Chins in Mizoram, which is 20% of the total Chin population in Myanmar. Reportedly, 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 aforesaid newspaper quotes the President of the Delhi-based All India Chakma Students’ Union, as saying: “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” adding “We appealed to the Centre to further amend the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill for including Myanmar along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan”. The Hindu further reports: “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 August 1, 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” and comments: “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”. And so it begins ~ you see, such memoranda to the Union Government vis-à-vis the CAB shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially of the Northeast, mainly because of our geographical location and our colonial history. The international borders between the Northeastern states and Myanmar and present day Bangladesh was arbitrarily drawn by our former colonial masters dividing peoples, tribes and families but that hadn’t lessened the community and familial bonds even after over seventy years of the end of the British rule in the Sub-Continent. As it is, Nagas have always demanded that all Naga-inhabited areas should be re-united. This feeling is bound to live in the hearts of other Northeastern communities that have been separated by these international borders too. This should have been taken serious cognizance of when the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre decided on the CAB, 2016 ~ but seeing as it didn’t ~ clearly indicates its ignorance about the geographical location, demographical composition, historical events, cultural affinities, religious bonds and numerous other emotive issues of the region, which coalesce to make the Northeastern individual and collective. Reports abound that there is an increasing number of various Myanmarese Naga tribes present in Nagaland and Manipur, who have come here for education, health and perhaps even employment. There is no official data on this but then it would also be difficult to collect such data because everybody looks the same and speaks the same languages. Moreover, who will turn his/her back on a brother or a sister? So, as far as all Northeastern states are concerned, the Union Government would find it very difficult to separate the citizen from the non-citizen, which by itself turns the CAB on its head hence should be discarded post haste. Indubitably, the CAB is a mindlessly conceived, hastily-drawn and impatiently legislated just so majoritanism and communal ideologies win elections ~ in the process, diverts this country from its envisaged path and imprisons it within “narrow domestic walls” of bigoted nationalism.