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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 17, New Delhi, April 10, 2021

India Must Assist Refugees from Myanmar - Appeal from Citizens For Democracy

Saturday 10 April 2021


(Set up by Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan in 1974
in defence of democracy & democratic values)
Sahibabad, Ghaziabad-201005

Date: 8th April 2021


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. Inspite 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.

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 and 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 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 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 office of UNCHR was allowed to function here till recently. Courts have also come to the rescue of such suffering foreigners and have stayed their deportation in large number of cases. When Punjab government sought to deport some Iranian dissenters in 1988, who were sure to be killed if deported, Citizens For Democracy filed 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 Supreme Court and High courts have stayed such deportations.

Earlier military had ruled Myanmar for about fifty years since independence from Britain in 1948 but had to face people’s movement for Restoration of Democracy. Large number of Myanmar refugees had come to India in the wake of military crackdown there in1988. India had supported the Burmese people’s uprising in 1988 against military repression and had encouraged Burmese freedom fighters, especially students, to take refuge in India. India had also supported the movement for restoration of Democracy led by Burmese political party NLD at that time. The UNCHR 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 Fernandes had opened one of his official residence 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 is a welcome development.

India is a democratic country and is duty bound to support the people who are struggling for democracy. The Mynamar freedom fighters are waging 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 consistent enemy of democracy. A dictatorship at our borders is a standing menace to our democratic system. Citizens For Democracy appeal to the Indian government to provide all humanitarian assistance to the refugees from Mynamar as it is part of India’s obligation to uphold basic tenets of human rights and humanitarian law.

S.R.Hiremath - President
N.D.Pancholi - General Secretary (M) 9811099532
Anil Sinha - Secretary (M) 9582015779

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