What is India’s stand on humanitarian aid to those fleeing Myanmar violence?

Facing criticism, Manipur government has withdrawn an earlier order that told officials ‘not to provide food or shelter to Myanmar refugees

Myanmar violence
Image courtesy: AP

The Manipur government on Monday, withdrew its earlier order that directed officials “not to provide food or shelter to Myanmar refugees”. According to a report by NDTV, the Manipur government had issued  an order to the five districts bordering Myanmar directing them not to “politely turn away” refugees. Terrified Myanmar nationals are fleeing the violence that has engulfed their nation, following the February 1 military coup.

According to media reports, the latest letter signed by Manipur government’s Special Secretary (Home) H. Gyan Prakash, says the contents of the earlier order of March 26 were “misconstrued and interpreted differently”. The now controversial original order was addressed to the deputy commissioners of the Chandel, Tengnoupal, Kamjong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur districts, and reportedly directed them to tighten border security and “should not be allowed to open any camps to provide food and shelter”.

On March 26, stated multiple media reports, that Prakash’s office had issued a directive that there should not be any camp to provide food and shelter to Myanmar nationals and no civil society group should not provide food and shelter to the refugees either. It had added that those trying to enter/seek refuge should be “politely turned away.” This caused the Manipur government to draw severe criticism, and was compared to humanitarian actions of the Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga who had refused to turn away Myanmar nationals, who entered the state through the border, despite the Centre’s instructions to the contrary. According to media reports, nearly 1,000 Myanmar nationals are taking shelter in Mizoram right now.

Even as thousands continued to suffer in Myanmar amidst the ongoing military crackdown after the February 1, 2021 coup, India had sealed all entry points along its border with the country. According to a report in The Hindu, India was then closely monitoring the areas “to prevent any Myanmar nationals from entering the country”. Meanwhile Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had held a virtual meeting on Sunday March 21, with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister of Zin Mar Aung.  There are 72 border pillars along the IMB spread across four States of which 32 border pillars are in Mizoram, reported the Hindu, adding that pillar 1 is at the trijunction between India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Manipur government’s fresh order now says that the state government has been taking all “necessary humanitarian steps, including taking in some injured Myanmar refugees to the state capital Imphal for treatment,” reported The  Hindustan Times. The report quoted H Gyan Prakash saying, “The fresh letter was issued on Monday which directed the deputy commissioners in four districts to disregard the earlier letter issued on March 26.” According to Prakash, “The Manipur government has been providing all aid to Myanmar nationals who have entered India via the borders with the state” and that all necessary humanitarian steps were being taken. It was reported that   Monday’s order stated that it was to avoid misunderstanding, the earlier letter has been withdrawn.

However, India was among eight nations that attended an annual military parade in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on March 27. According to a report in the Indian Express, Russia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand also sent representatives to Myanmar to be part of the parade to mark Tatmadaw Day on Saturday. The IE quoted a senior official in the South Block who said, “Since diplomatic relations between both the countries continue, diplomatic commitments are also continuing”. According to media reports, this annual parade took place a day after the military chiefs of nearly a dozen nations condemned the excessive use of force by the Myanmarese military against the protesters. 

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military junta warned that its forces “would shoot protesters in the head”, this was announced over its state television stated news reports, as anti-coup activists had called for a huge show of defiance on the country’s Armed Forces Day on Saturday. According to reports, a broadcast on the MRTV news channel directed at protesters said, “You should learn… that you can be in danger of getting shot to the head and back.” Hundreds of people, including children, have already been killed in the violence that is reported to be continuing in the neighbouring country. Many have reportedly died from shots to the head, raising suspicions they were deliberately targeted for killing, stated a report in NDTV.      



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