Chin Human Rights Organization
September 2, 2003
Evictions of Chin refugees have intensified in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl and nearly all villages and towns across the State have joined the effort of Young Mizoram Association, which have vowed to expel every “Burmese” from Mizoram. Active eviction is being reported in most localities in Aizawl. Chanmari, Chhinga veng (ward) and Electric veng are some of the localities in which evictions have been most active. A local source estimates that more than 100 Chin families or households are living in each of the localities, and most of them have been evicted. Those who have gone into hiding to avoid the raid in their house have had all their belongings thrown out, and their houses padlocked by members of local YMA and Village Council. In one reported incident in Chhinga veng, a woman in her late pregnancy who was crying and pleading for more time to organize her household stuffs was manhandled, and forcibly dragged out of her house. All her belongings were then removed from her rented house. One woman who is on the run, and requested anonymity predicts it would be a matter of days or weeks before every single Chin is evicted from Aizawl, the city where she is making her hideout. In a matter of weeks since the eviction started in Aizawl, most major towns in Mizoram have now started carrying out evictions of Chin refugees living in their respective areas. Lunglei, Lawngtlai, Serchip, Hnahthial, Kolasib, Champhai, Saiha are some of the major towns that are actively conducting the eviction.
More people returned
The number of Chin refugees who have been returned to Burma from Mizoram is increasing and sources have told Chin Human Rights Organization that as many as 6000 refugees have already crossed the border into Burma as of September 2, 2003. Unconfirmed reports say many of the returnees have been taken into army custody. Those who have no identity cards have reportedly been given a compulsory three month jail sentence, while Burmese authorities conduct a background check on each individual. Most of the returnees were compelled to go back to Burma due to the evictions in Aizawl and other areas, and threats that the YMA will not take any responsibilities should anything happen to them after the deadline for abandoning Mizoram has passed. One person says that people are really afraid of such threats in view of the manner in which the mobs have conducted themselves by destroying properties and manhandling people. Many of those returned to the border were reported to have escorted by police who supervised their return, a report supported by the fact that the Mizoram Superintendent of Police makes regular updates on the number of those who have crossed the border into Burma.
Hundreds of people who have been evicted and told to leave Mizoram are now on the move. Because of concerns for their well being in Burma, these people are taking their chances to find sympathetic communities inside Mizoram. It has been confirmed that at least 80 people, including women and children are now sheltering at Vombuk village, located about 15 kilometers from Burma border. More people have sought shelter elsewhere inside Lai Autonomous District, where the local people have close ethnic ties with the Chin people. With the eviction spreading across Mizoram, and with the prevalent fear of returning to Burma, it is very likely that more and more people will be on the move inside Mizoram State.
India-Burma border sealed off
In an attempt to prevent returnees from entering back into Mizoram, the Mizoram State government has already sealed off its border with Burma. The government has ordered the deployment of police units at all major border passes. The closure has also affected traffic passing back and forth India Burma border.
Although it is still impossible to ascertain the real humanitarian conditions of people on the move, it is almost certain that they are struggling for the most basic supplies such as food, shelter and medical attention. In Vombuk where at least 80 persons are confirmed to have taken shelter, local people have built them makeshift tents and donate eatables and foodstuff. Our source has warned that unless alternate support is urgently arranged, the humanitarian consequence will be serious. Moreover, because news about these people being given shelter has likely spread to others, more people could be attracted to Vombuk, which will then exceed the already meager support currently available to them.
Notes on cause of eviction
The eviction was triggered by an incident of rape in which a 9-year-old girl was brutally raped by an individual alleged to be a Burmese citizen on 19 July 2003. The alleged perpetrator was apprehended by police two days after the incident, and immediately put in Aizawl Central Jail. Local residents then turned their anger on all “Burmese” living in the city of Aizawl by destroying their properties and ordering them to leave. As of September 2003, the alleged perpetrator is still being held without trial in Aizawl Central Jail. Inside sources have disputed the authenticity of the allegation because it has been reported that the picture of the accused was telecast on local TV and the victim has identified him as not being the rapist. According to the victim’s description, the rapist is long-haired and has a spotted and rough face, an opposite appearance with the man in custody who has a short hair and has no such marks on his face. Moreover, family members of the man in custody claim he was being targeted because of his weak mental condition. It is reported that the man in custody has three alibis to confirm that he was elsewhere at the time of the incident, but he has not been produced in court as of this point. Police obtained a confession from him at the time of his arrest, but many believe the confession was coerced.
Although the State government called the eviction illegal and hinted punishment for those carrying out the eviction, it is yet to enforce its statement. Election of State Legislative Assembly is due in November, and this is precisely the reason why the ruling party has made no attempt that might cost its image in the eyes of the public. One comment in an online discussion alleges the Mizoram government has secretly entered into a deal with the Young Mizo Association, an organization spearheading the eviction, that while the government would take no real action against YMA, it would issue a statement condemning the eviction. Observers are pointing the continuing eviction and lack of government action to the absence of international pressure being put on the government.