Aizawl/Imphal: The Mizoram government has decided not to collect biometrics and biographic data of Myanmarese taking shelter in the state while the Manipur government has urged the Centre to extend the time for the process in the state by a year.
A Mizoram Home Department official on Thursday said that the state cabinet in its meeting on Wednesday decided not to proceed with the proposed collection of biometric and biographic data of Myanmar refugees taking shelter in the state.
The state government took up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), but the Centre insisted that it carry on the process.
“The Election Commission is also likely to announce the schedule of the Mizoram Assembly polls soon and the government officials would be very busy making preparations for the coming elections,” the official, who refused to be named, told IANS.
The election to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly is likely to be held in November or December this year.
The MHA had earlier asked the Manipur and Mizoram governments to capture biographic and biometric details of “illegal migrants” in the two states and complete the process by September this year.
Both the northeastern states had earlier agreed to undertake collections of biometrics and biographic data of Myanmar nationals.
After the military takeover in Myanmar in February 2021, thousands of Myanmarese fled to Mizoram with around 35,000 men, women and children now staying in the mountainous state. Several thousand Myanmarese nationals also took shelter in Manipur.
Mizoram Information and Public Relations Minister Lalruatkima said that collection of biometric details of the Myanmar national would be discriminatory as the refugees and the Mizos of Mizoram have the same blood relation and similar ethnicity.
“The MNF (Mizo National Front) government provided relief and shelter to the Myanmar refugees on humanitarian ground. Thousands of refugee students were enrolled in Mizoram schools and provided free textbooks, uniforms and midday-meal like the other students belonging to the state,” he said.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga and state’s Parliament members — C. Lalrosanga (lok Sabha) and K. Vanlalvena (Rajya Sabha), on a number of occasions, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Minister G. Kishan Reddy, and the MHA to provide funds and accord the refugee status to the Myanmar nationals taking shelter in the state.
Citing international protocols and conventions, the MHA earlier told the northeastern states that nationals from neighbouring countries cannot be given refugee status as India is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees and the protocol.
Meanwhile, the Manipur government has already started the biometric process for the Myanmarese staying in the state though the state government has requested the Centre to extend the time by a year.
As the state government began collecting the biometric data from July, a team from the National Crime Records Bureau, deputed by the MHA, assisted the state government at the Foreigners’ Detention Centre at Sajiwa in Imphal East district.
As many as 718 more Myanmar nationals, including 301 children and 208 women, had entered Manipur’s Chandel district in July due to the ongoing clashes between the Army and the civil forces in the neighbouring country. The Myanmar nationals are now staying in seven villages — Lajang, Bonse, New Samtal, New Lajang, Yangnomphai, Yangnomphai Saw Mill, and Aivomjang – along the India-Myanmar border in Chandel.
Besides these 718 Myanmar nationals, several thousand Myanmarese took shelter in Manipur after the military coup there in February 2021.