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Manipur CSO invokes Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, urges PM to treat fleeing Myanmar citizens humanely

File picture of anti-Military junta rally in Myanmar

In the event of any constraints from the side of the government due to the ongoing pandemic or otherwise, specialised humanitarian agencies, including the UNHCR, should be given unhindered access to provide their humanitarian services, said Citizens Committee Manipur

TFM Desk

Citizens Committee Manipur (CCM) has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to treat the fleeing Myanmar citizens, because of the February military coup in the country, humanely and in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is but one family), stating that shouldering the responsibility to protect these hapless persons seeking safety within India’s territory is in the spirit of the age-old Indic philosophy.

CCM has submitted a representation in this regard to the PM on Thursday, a copy of which has also been sent to Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh.

The committee drew attention to the “precarious condition” being faced by the thousands of Myanmar citizens who fled their country following the crackdown on the pro-democracy protestors. It stated that the people of Myanmar have been by and large resisting the February 2021 military coup d’état and to which the military have responded with “absolute repression”.

“Having no alternative, the desperate citizens, including women and children, have crossed over into India through the historically, geographically and culturally contiguous 1,468 km long India-Myanmar border in Northeast India, particularly in the Manipur-Mizoram sector”.

Maintaining that the Government of Mizoram took a “natural and culture-bounded” decision that, given the fleeing population share ethnocultural ties with the people of the state, it cannot remain indifferent to their plight. Shelter camps were opened and food and basic essentials were provided to thousands of them.

While the government of Manipur initially forbade the district administration and CSOs from “opening any camp to provide shelter and food” on the border in a letter of March 26, 20221, following strong public outcry, the Government of Manipur later withdrew the letter.

Contending that no humanitarian aid has been extended to the desperate people stranded on the border, CCM said that reports of the Assam Rifles personnel turning them away keep appearing in the news media. They are reportedly acting on the basis of Union Home Ministry notification dated March 10, 2021 which clearly instructed the Northeast states to “sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in identifying the illegal migrants and initiate the deportation process expeditiously and without delay”, it added.

In April, CCM convened a meeting and constituted a Humanitarian Sub-Committee (HSC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Amar Yumnam, former vice chancellor of Manipur University.

CCM said it gave out a general appeal to the magnanimity of the people of Manipur to mobilise financial and material support from the general population. The response has been overwhelming, not only the prominent citizens but even young students came out in support, it added.

With coordination of the NGO volunteers active in the border areas, the team could send some food, medicine, clothing, sanitary materials, crockery and roofing materials to the border villages in Ukhrul, Kamjong, Chandel, Tengnoupal and Churachandpur Districts of Manipur catering to the basic needs of more than five hundred refugees.

“The initiative, grossly inadequate as it may be, was a life saving intervention for the desperate stranded Myanmar citizens as well as the poor villagers hosting them with whatever warmth and hospitality they can garner”.

Unfortunately, the plight of these people is compounded further by the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the committee lamented, as they are hiding away from the authorities of both Myanmar and India, they are neither tested nor vaccinated.

CCM said it has been informed of COVID-related death amongst the population and we are deeply concerned that if kept unattended, it can soon spread to the local population and can add to the already catastrophic situation in the country.

Meanwhile, CCM welcomed the recent judgement of the High Court of Manipur upholding the human rights of seven Myanmar nationals, who entered India secretly, to travel to New Delhi to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The representation also mentioned that even though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, the judgement insisted India is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and pronounced:

“The far-reaching and myriad protection afforded by Article 21 of our Constitution, as interpreted and adumbrated by our Supreme Court time and again, would indubitably encompass the right of non-refoulement [this is the principle under international law that a person fleeing from persecution from his own country should not be forced to return]”.

In line with this judicial pronouncement and the primacy of enhancing the people to people relations for deepening the impact of the Act East Policy, CCM “strongly urged” the Government of India to take its own constitutional and human rights obligations more seriously.

CCM also suggested that in the event of any constraints from the side of the government due to the ongoing pandemic or otherwise, specialised humanitarian agencies geared up to respond to such situations, including the UNHCR, should be given unhindered access to provide their humanitarian services.

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