In what is being construed as a gesture that goes against the Indian ethos of Atithi Devo Bhavah, the Biren Singh government in Manipur has instructed local authorities and civilians not to entertain refugees from Myanmar with either food or shelter.
The government order, however, says that the refugees can be given medical help in case of grievous injuries on “humanitarian consideration”.
“People trying to enter/seek refuge should be politely turned away,” the order said.
The directive has been issued to the deputy commissioners of Chandel, Tengnoupal, Kamjong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur districts in the wake of refugees from the neighbouring countries entering Indian borders following a clampdown on protesters agitating against the military coup on the Aung San Suu Kyi government.
More than 420 people have died since the military took over the country on February 1, triggering widespread protests by civilians. At least 90 people including children have been killed in firing by the military on protesting civilians in nine regions of the country on Friday.
The incident has triggered an exodus of Myanmar refugees, a majority of them being policemen, to India. Both the countries share a 1,643 km border with India housing scores of refugees from the neighbouring country.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations has urged the Centre and state governments to provide refuge to Myanmar residents who are fleeing their homes, considering the current humanitarian crisis and the “long history” that both the countries share.
The Manipur government has also asked local authorities to immediately halt Aadhar enrolment and keep the kits in safe custody.
In the Friday firing, three Myanmar residents with bullet injuries were admitted to a hospital in the northeast after crossing the border. According to reports, another dozen had crossed over to India a day before following firing by the military in Tamu. They were hosted by Indian residents in Moreh.
While the Indian government is yet to give an actual number of Myanmar refugees trickling into the country, reports peg the number at hundreds. A village in the northeast has reportedly sheltered 34 police personnel and a firefighter after they crossed the border two weeks ago.
While states like Mizoram were hosting refugees, the Union Home Ministry recently sent a directive to the four Indian border states to prevent refugees from entering India except on humanitarian grounds.
Meanwhile, India on March 27, attended an annual military parade in Myanmar capital Naypitaw in a visit that New Delhi called a continuance of “diplomatic commitments”.
Other countries that attended the parade, barely two months after the coup, were Russia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
“Since diplomatic relations between both the countries continue, diplomatic commitments are also continuing,” a senior official in South Block told the Indian Express.
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The Myanmar military’s use of bullets and tear gas during the crackdown on protesters has been condemned by military chiefs of several countries including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan, who have asked the military junta to follow international standards of military professionalism.
India, however, has maintained a stoic silence on the issue.