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Dhaka Tribune

Mizoram politicians oppose KNF’s atrocities 

  • At least 1,167 Bangladeshi refugees now sheltered in Mizoram
  • Mizoram plans to repatriate refugees after end of biometric registration
Update : 13 Apr 2024, 10:00 AM

On the backdrop of several armed attacks by the Chittagong Hill Tracts-based Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) separatist group, allegations have surfaced that they get shelter in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram.

However, the Mizoram politicians refuted the allegation.

C Lalrosanga, the only lawmaker from Mizoram in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's bicameral parliament, said: “It is true that several hundred Bangladeshi refugees took shelters in our state.

“We did it on humanitarian grounds. There is no point in backing them when it comes to sabotage. This is never the policy Mizoram embodies.”

At least 1,167 Bangladeshi refugees are currently sheltered in Mizoram, according to official data. Grassroots activists claim the figure to be much higher. 

Almost all the Kuki-Chin people took shelter in refugee camps in the Lawngtlai area of Mizoram, near the Indian border with Bangladesh and Myanmar. 

Other than those from Bangladesh, around 40,000 Kuki-Chin refugees from Myanmar took shelter in the camps.

Additionally, another 10,000 members of the Kuki-Chin-Zo community took refuge there as internally displaced people from another Indian state, Manipur.  

The Myanmar refugees have taken shelter in the state since February 2021 after the military junta seized power, while the Bangladeshi nationals fled to Mizoram in November 2022 due to a military offensive against the KNF insurgent group in the CHT.

The central government of India ordered the Mizoram state government to launch biometric registration of the refugees a year ago, but the process has not been started yet. 

The Mizoram government thinks that once the registration is completed, the refugees will be repatriated without the guarantee of peace where they come from.

The Mizo National Front-led (MNF) government was in power in Mizoram till December last year, with separatist Zoramthanga being its chief minister.

However, in early December, the Zoram People's Movement (ZPM), a party founded by Lalduhoma, a former Indian Police Service officer and a former MP, took office. 

Strong support for refugees

The stance of both parties is almost indifferent.  

Mizoram’s new chief minister, Lalduhoma, told the state legislative assembly on February 29 that his government would not collect biometric details of the refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar.   

Upon request, the home minister gave him assurance that no refugees would be deported until peace is restored in the neighbouring countries, the chief minister said.

In the run-up to the assembly elections, the MNF had projected itself as a Zo nationalist party and warned that another outfit might not be strong enough to withstand the central government’s pressure to push back the refugees to Myanmar.

However, after emerging victorious in 27 out of 40 seats in the state, the ZPM said that the state’s position on the issue of refugees would not change.

“The issue is humanitarian,” Lalduhoma told Scroll in December.

Requesting anonymity, his political adviser told Bangla Tribune that their government is very compassionate towards the refugees. 

“But that doesn’t mean we want them to carry out terrorist activities in Bangladesh.” 

Terming Bangladesh a very friendly country, he said that the refugees were sheltered in Mizoram because they belong to the Kuki-Chin-Zo community.  

“We would like them to return to Bangladesh once the situation in their localities returns to normalcy,” he added.  

Parliamentarian Lalrosanga said: “Our state is small, and we grapple with providing thousands of refugees with food and accommodation. 

“The Myanmar refugees came here three years ago. More refugees came from Bangladesh in a year. The central government allocates a very small amount of relief for them,” he alleged. 

Lalrosanga went on to say that they collect funds from local churches and youth organizations. 

“Our main goal is to send humanitarian assistance to the refugees given their current status,” said Lalrosanga, adding that the government and politicians never support the refugees in subversive activities. 

“There is no way to do so.”

Looking back

Separatist group KNF surfaced in Bandarban in 2022 when the law enforcers were looking for some missing youths who had joined a militant group named Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya. In exchange for money, KNF provided training for the militants.

After that, its members started trespassing on Indian territory in phases. 

In the beginning of the influx, they were “pushed back” by the Indian Border Security Force, said MNF leader K Vanlalvena.

In March 2023, as many as 566 Bangladeshi refugees, including women and children, entered Mizoram in one go. The number gradually rose to 1,167. 

KNF President Nathan Bom hails from Eden Para in Ruma. The couple has two sons, aged 5 and 15. He obtained his Master's degree from the Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University.

Nathan was the first person from the Bom community to contest the general election in 2018 as an independent candidate.

According to sources, the KNF came into existence in 2008, but its armed group came into being in 2016-17. Initially, it was called the Kuki-Chin National Volunteers, or KNV. He also formed an NGO named Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO).

It aims to establish an autonomous area with nine upazilas, namely Baghaichari, Barkal, Belaichari, and Jurachari upazilas of Rangamati and Ruma, Thanchi, Lama, Alikadam, and Rowangchhari upazilas of Bandarban.

In a letter to the prime minister on December 8, KNF President Nathan Bom urged the government to create a conducive atmosphere for a ceasefire and modalities of disarmament and grant its demand for a Kuki-Chin state within and under the ambit of the Constitution.

The peace negotiations with the KNF began with a discussion on May 29, 2023, aiming to reintegrate the armed organization KNF into civilian life. 

Subsequently, the Peace Establishment Committee was formed, comprising 18 members, on June 9 of the same year. Later, several virtual meetings and two rounds of direct dialogue were held on November 5, 2023, and March 5, 2024. The talks have been put on hold since the armed attacks on banks and law enforcers in Ruma and Thanchi earlier this month.  

Soon after the developments, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said that the KNF had contact with the criminals of the surrounding countries and received weapons from them.

Until Thursday, the joint forces have arrested 58 people, including the chief coordinator of the group.

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