New Uncertainty for Burmese Refugees over India’s Provincial Election
9 December 2008 – Aizawl: The State legislative election in Mizoram finished yesterday with a sweeping victory for the Indian National Congress (INC) after having been out of power for a decade in the northeastern Indian State.
The Mizo National Front, the ruling nationalist party suffered an embarrassing upset after securing only three of the 40 available State legislative seats. Mr. Zoramthanga, the incumbent Chief Minister and leader of the MNF party lost both of the two constituencies he contested. The surprising defeat came amidst a severe food crisis plaguing the State due to massive rat infestations following a mass flowering and fruiting of bamboo.
Mizoram shares a long international border with Burma’s Chin State, which is now struggling with a similar food crisis.
The sweeping electoral victory by the INC brought back to power the former Chief Minister Lalthanhawla, who had served as head of the State government for two terms from 1989 to 1998.
The election of a new government in Mizoram is causing renewed uncertainty about the future of the tens of thousands of Burmese Chin refugees in the State who have been the target of scapegoats and massive immigration crackdown during previous legislative elections. An estimated 60, 000 thousands Chins are currently living in Mizoram.
“Generally speaking, public sympathy for Chin refugees in Mizoram has steadily risen over the last few years, but we really don’t know what the future will hold for us,” says a Chin refugee and long term resident of the State.
In the past, Mizoram authorities and youth groups had regularly rounded up and deported thousands of Chin refugees to Burma, often in close correlation with the election cycle of the State Legislative Assembly.
“The fact that the Central Government is led by the Congress Party, which is traditionally on the side of the Burmese pro-democracy movement, might probably deter the new State government from taking any drastic actions against Burmese refugees” observes a Burmese activist in New Delhi.