Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mizoram orders Burmese to leave in 15 days

by Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima News) -In a renewed crackdown on Burmese migrants, Mizoram authorities in India’s northeastern region have arrested over 100 Burmese nationals and ordered them to leave the state within 15 days.

Mizoram police as of Saturday began to crack down on Burmese nationals and arrested more than 100. They were produced in court in Aizawl, capital of the state, where they were made to pay a fine of Rupees 500 each and ordered to leave the state within 15 days.

“They arrested us and held us for a night in the police lock-up. The court told us that it would give 15 days to us to leave the country. It also warned us that if we are seen again we will be arrested and put in jail,” a Burmese weaver, who was also among the arrested, told Mizzima on Thursday.

The weaver said police raided their house and arrested all 12 Burmese weavers.

Explaining the court order he said they had to pay a fine of Rupees 500 each. Those who could not pay the fine were deported to the Burma border forthwith.

On Sunday, Mizoram authorities deported 15 Burmese to the Indo-Burma border for they could not pay the fine imposed by the court. However, the Burmese weaver and others were bailed out by their employers, who paid the fine for them.

“Yes, it is true that we have deported the Burmese. But there were only 15 of them. We deported them on Sunday. I cannot recall how many we have deported in the past,” Rozara, a police officer at the Aizawl police station, told Mizzima.

He said they had acted on the order of the court, which is also going through the legal steps following an order from the state government. He clarified that they had not targeted any particular section of the Burmese community.

According to the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) office in Aizawl, the police have mainly targeted Burmese nationals trading in alcohol and drugs.

“As far as my understanding goes, the police have arrested mainly those who sell alcohol and drugs. The state government must have pressurized the police to do so,” Tehra, in-charge of the CHRO office in Aizawl, said.

But unlike Tehra’s view of the situation Burmese living in Aizawl believe that the police are making random arrests as several from the Burmese weaving community were also arrested along with others.

A Burmese weaver, Phoeni said “Now the weavers are scared. It is not safe for them anymore,” he added.

According to him, there are an estimated 2,500 Burmese weavers working in various weaving houses in Aizawl town. Mizoram, which is contiguous to Chin state in western Burma, hosts more than 60,000 Burmese nationals.

This is not the first time that Burmese have been deported. In 2003, after a Burmese raped a minor girl, locals forcibly evicted several Burmese nationals from the state.

Sources said the influential Young Mizo Association (YMA), a youth organization in Mizoram, has been compiling a list of Burmese living in the state. However, the purpose of collecting the list of names is still not clear.

Local newspapers have highlighted the increasing number of Burmese nationals year after year and linked the increasing crime rate to the influx.

Most Burmese nationals find jobs in weaving, as gold-smiths, in construction sites, work as housemaids, farm hands and do other manual labour.

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