With nearly 300 Kuki-Chin tribals, who fled from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh and are already Mizoram, the state government believes that there may be a fresh influx of refugees with authorities in the bordering Lawngtlai district making advance arrangements.
Lawngtlai Deputy Commissioner Amol Srivastava told IANS on Tuesday that more Chin-Kuki tribals are likely to come to Mizoram to escape from the troubles in the CHT.
“We have to be prepared to deal with the fresh refugees, if any. Considering the humanitarian aspects, we have to provide relief, food and shelter to the refugees, if they come to the state seeking shelter,” Srivastava said.
Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil) of Chawngte, T.T. Beikhaizi said that of the around 300 refugees, 161 are women and girls and they came in phases to Lawngtlai since November 20.
The tribals are now lodged at a community hall, school and a sub-centre in Parva-3 village, near the tri-junction of Mizoram, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The refugees have fled from their ancestral homes in the CHT in the wake of an armed conflict between the Bangladesh Army and the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA), also known as Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF).
The KNA is an underground militant outfit, demanding sovereignty for the Chin-Kukis residing in Rangamati and Bandarban districts of CHT and to protect the tribals’ tradition, culture and livelihood.
Besides the district administration, churches, various NGOs, including the Young Mizo Association and individuals, are providing food and other relief aid.
The Lawngtlai Deputy Commissioner on Monday held a meeting with officials, NGOs and other concerned authorities, and reviewed the situation and discuss provision of humanitarian assistance to the Bangladeshi nationals.
The meeting also discussed action plans in view of a possible fresh influx from the neighbouring country.
The tribal refugees said that after the armed conflict with the KNA started a month ago, the “Bangladesh Army in association with the Arakan Army raided many villages, and assaulted and arrested many tribals while some were forcibly sent to jail without any fault and prevented them from going from one village to another”.
“The soldiers threatened to kill us. Many of our people are missing. We were totally unsafe in our villages. The Muslim people boycotting us socially. We used to sell our agricultural and horticultural produce in the markets but the Muslims refused to buy anything from us,” said Bawilianthang, an elderly refugee leader.
The Chin-Kuki tribals and the Mizos in Mizoram belong to the Zo community and share the same culture and ancestry besides they all are Christians.
The Bangladeshi tribals came at a time when the Mizoram government is struggling to provide food and shelter to over 30,500 Myanmar nationals, who sheltered in the northeastern state after the military seized power in the country through a coup in February last year.
Majority of the Myanmar refugees, including 11,798 children and 10,047 women, are sheltered in more than 156 camps in all 11 districts in Mizoram while a large number of them took shelter in the relatives’ houses, community centres, rented houses, government buildings and shelter houses.
Mizoram shares 318 km unfenced borders with Bangladesh and 510 km frontiers with Myanmar, guarded by the Border Security Force and the Assam Rifles, respectively.