India must help refugees from Myanmar : CFD

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Muslim Mirror Network

New Delhi:  Reacting to   the Indian government policy on  Myanmar refugees,  advocacy group Citizens For  Democracy (CFD)  says India is a democratic country and is duty bound to support the people who are struggling for democracy in Myanmar.

Since 1st February 2021 when the military generals took control of Myanmar by toppling its democratically elected government, the mass protests  against the coup are continuing. The army Generals in order to quell the protests have let loose brutal  repression and detained Ms. Suu Kyi, Win Myint and several top leaders of the NLD.

More than 500 protesters have been killed and around 2600 have been detained. In Spite of threats and warnings from the military, the movement for restoration of democracy is growing; protesters have called for civil disobedience, stoppage of work, sit-ins and mass demonstrations.

In a statement- released by  CFD president S.R.Hiremath and General Secretary N.D.Pancholi and Secretary Anil Sinha- said large number of Myanmar citizens in order to escape the brutalities of a  military rule  and wanting asylum have entered into north-eastern states of India i.e. Mizoram. Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

But shockingly,the Home Ministry of India has written advisories to these states “to take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India” and deport illegal migrants. However there is a vast difference between ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’. The Myanmar citizens who have entered into India to seek asylum cannot be treated as illegal migrants, notwithstanding that India is not signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951.

In the past India has welcomed hundreds and thousands of people seeking asylum from all over the world and the office of UNHCR was allowed to function  here till recently. Courts have also come to the rescue of such suffering foreigners and have stayed their deportation in a large number of cases. When the Punjab government sought to deport some Iranian dissenters in 1988, who were sure to be killed if deported, Citizens For Democracy filed a writ petition titled N.D..Pancholi Vs. State of Punjab {WP (Crl.) No.243 of 1988}and Supreme Court immediately stayed their deportation at the first instance. There are several such cases filed by individuals and other human rights organizations where the Supreme Court and High courts have stayed such deportations.

India had also supported the movement for restoration of Democracy led by Burmese political party NLD at that time. The UNHCR had recognized Burmese activists as political refugees with the tacit consent of the ministry of External Affairs. In 1990 two Burmese hijackers who had diverted Thai Airways flight from Bangkok leaving for Rangoon  to Calcutta were arrested   but released within months from Calcutta jail when many eminent Indians like Justice Krishna Iyer and 30 Indian Parliamentarians made an appeal on their behalf. Daw Than Nu, the daughter of the former Burmese Prime Minister U Nu was even allowed to use the All India Radio to support the movement for restoration for democracy and in 1993 India bestowed its highest award, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Peace and understanding, on Aung San Suu Kyi. Indian Defence Minister George Fernandez had opened one of his official residences for Burmese refugees. However later on there was change in Indian government’s policy as it stopped actively supporting the movement for restoration of democracy in Myanmar. In or around 1998-1999,late Dr.(Lt.Col.) Lakshmi Sehgal, former Commander of Rani Jhansi Regiment of Azad Hind Fauj formed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in 1943, formed a Solidarity Committee for Burma’s freedom fighters along with Nandita Haksar, the eminent human rights lawyer, and they had to struggle hard for ten years to get released 36 Myanmar freedom fighters lodged in Port Blair jail.

In  this background the recent advisories issued by the Home Ministry to the north eastern states for checking the alleged migrants who in fact are refugees do not conform to  the  ideals which we have inherited from our freedom struggle. It is heartening that chief ministers of Mizoram and Manipur have openly expressed their intention of extending humanitarian assistance to the refugees coming from across the borders.  People of these states are also raising funds in order to support such refugees which are a welcome development.

The Myanmar freedom fighters are waging a momentous struggle for their liberty and rights and Citizens For Democracy stands in solidarity with the struggling citizens of Myanmar.  In such a situation India cannot pursue a policy which goes in support of the world’s most repressive and cruel regime. – a military regime which is a consistent enemy of democracy.

Citizens For Democracy appeal to the Indian government to provide all humanitarian assistance to the refugees from Myanmar as it is part of  India’s obligation to uphold basic tenets of human rights and humanitarian law.

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