The central and Mizoram governments are at odds over the influx of refugees from Myanmar after the February 1 military coup in the neighbouring nation that has led to a number of bloodbaths on several occasion.
The Mizoram government opened the gates for facilitation of refugees and migrants from Myanmar in connection with the political development in the Southasian neighbourhood and issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) regarding this.
Hundreds of foreign nationals including policemen and women from Myanmar have fled to Mizoram fearing further military crackdown. The Myanmar military had taken over the country after the coup and sent its elected political actors to jail.
India and Myanmar share 1,643 km-long border and people on either side have familial ties.
After learning about the Mizoram government SOP for refugees, the central government directed the state to immediately revoke it.
On February 26, the Mizoram Home Department issued the SOP addressing all deputy commissioners in the state to facilitate the refugees from Myanmar. The department also directed all the superintendents of police to take necessary action in this regard.
It stated that all Myanmarese national, entering Mizoram in connection with the political development in Myanmar shall be properly identified and complete details shall be collected. "Deputy Commissioner concerned shall co-ordinate with Village Council members and NGO's, if necessary, for the purpose," the state home administration stated.
The administration stated that those persons and their family members, whose life is in immediate and imminent threat due to political and organisational affiliations in connection with the political development shall be facilitated and treated as refugees.
"Deputy Commissioners shall co-ordinate with Village Council concerned and maintain a register village-wise for the exercise. Further, identification cards shall be issued by concerned Deputy Commissioners after ascertaining and accepting the foreign nationals as refugees," it stated.
The refugees should be given medical care, relief and rehabilitation and security. "Assistance and other basic human needs shall be provided to those persons identified as refugees due to political persecution as per theprovisions of the Mizoram Relief and Rehabilitation of (Refugees/Internally Displaced Persons) Scheme, 2018," it stated.
The central government after learning about the development conveyed its displeasure to the state. After that, on March 6 the state home department revoked the SOP.
It stated, "The standing operating procedure for facilitation of refugee and migrants of Myanmar in connection with the political development in Myanmar issued by letter February 26, 2021 is hereby revoked."
Four days later on March 10, the North East Division of Ministry of Home Affairs issued a letter to chief secretaries of Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Director General of Assam Rifles over the illegal influx of refugees from Myanmar. The ministry directed them not to allow refugees from Myanmar and take appropriate action as per law.
The MHA pointed that state governments have no powers to grant "refugee status to any foreigner" and India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. The letter stated that there is a probability of large scale illegal influx into Indian territory through Indo-Myanmar Border due to current internal situation in Myanmar.
"In this regard, MHA has already issued an advisory on February 25, 2021 to chief secretaries of Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and also to Border Guarding Force along Indo-Myanmar Border (Assam Rifles) to stay alert and take appropriate action to prevent a possible influx into the territory," it stated.
Now it has been reported that illegal influx from Myanmar has started, the ministry said that "instructions were issued to sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in identifying the illegal migrants and initiate the deportation processes expeditiously and without delay."
The ministry stated that the foreign division had also issued instructions to chief secretaries through a letter dated February 28, 2021 advising them to sensitize law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking appropriate prompt steps for identifying the illegal migrants, their restrictions to specific locations as per provision of law, capturing their biography and biometric particulars, cancellation of fake Indian documents and legal proceedings including initiation of deportation proceedings as per provision of law.
"Further it is reiterated that the state governments and Union Territories administrations have no power to grant refugee status to any foreigner and India is not a signatory to the UN refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 protocol," the letter stated.