Ethnic communities in Myanmar have long borne the brunt of abusive military rule since the military staged a coup against the democratically elected government in 1962. Time and again ethnic people especially in the states of Rakhine, Chin, Shan, Kachin, and Karen have been significantly abused. These abuses include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and mistreatment, forced labor, reprisals against members of the opposition, restrictions on movement, expression, and religious freedom, abusive military conscription policies, and extortion and confiscation of property. The discrimination faced by the Rohingya community in particular is well-known and documented; this community is probably the worst discriminated against in Myanmar.
The Chin people are another group at the receiving end. After the military junta staged yet another coup in February 2021, thousands of Chin people crossed over from Chin state to India’s Mizoram with which it shares a 404 km border. Chin people have been escaping persecution earlier too since the 1980s. While they have sought refuge in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, Mizoram in India has drawn more Chin people. Besides proximity, the people of Chin State and Mizoram also share a common history and ethnic ancestry.
However, India has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. The status of Chins in India is therefore undefined. There is no clear estimate of the number of Chin refugees in India.
Dr. Rini Ralte who is President of Northeast Solidarity speaks about the dire conditions of Chin refugees in Mizoram’s refugee camps. She highlights the difficult and fraught journey that Chins make to cross into India from Myanmar and discusses the ties that bind the people of Chin state and Mizoram. Dr. Ralte earned her doctorate degree from Boston’s Episcopal Divinity School and Senate of Serampore College, West Bengal. She is a retired Professor from the Department of Women’s Studies at the United Theological College, Bangalore. She currently lives in Aizawl.