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Chin Eviction Case Reaches India’s National Human Rights Commission

27 May 2011: A local Mizo right group on Tuesday called on the National Human Rights Commission of India to intervene to protect Chin refugees who face forcible return to Burma at the hands of the local Mizoram authorities.

Aizawl-based Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF) lodged a formal complaint with the Indian rights watchdog on behalf of 22 Chin families, who have been ordered to leave Saikhum Phai, a small settlement on the Chin State-Mizoram border, before the end of the month.

According to ZIF, the eviction was jointly initiated by Vaphai Village authorities, Champhai District Police, as well as groups such as the Young Mizo Association (YMA), Mizo Upa Pawl (MUP) (Mizo Elders Association), and Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP) (Mizo Women’s Association). The local branches of three main political parties, including the ruling Congress Party were also involved in the eviction drive.

The National Human Rights Commission today formally registered the complaint and issued a case number – the first step in the process of adjudicating the case.

“We hope that the National Human Rights Commission will recognize the seriousness and urgency of the case and intervene at the earliest time possible,” said ZIF Director C. Laremruata.

In its complaint letter the ZIF recommended that NHRC investigate the conduct of non-state actors involved in the eviction and direct the Mizoram State Government to prosecute organizations and individuals under relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code for ordering the eviction of Chin families.

Meanwhile, Chinland Guardian has learned that the Deputy Commissioner Office of Champhai District yesterday summoned a meeting involving all the parties, including the District Superintendent of Police, local administrative officials, individuals and organizations behind the eviction, as well as representatives of the evicted Chin families, and asked them to settle the dispute immediately.

Caught in local politics

With a little over 60 households, Saikhum Phai is a small village located near the Chin State border, and falls under the administrative jurisdiction of nearby Vaphai Village Council. Over the years, Chins have settled in the village and now make up the majority of the population. Many of them have been included in the Indian electoral roll.
During the previous Mizo National Front administration, the Vaphai Village Council encouraged Saikhum Phai villagers to apply for separate administrative jurisdiction for their village. But with the election of the Indian Congress Government in the last election, Saikhum Phai villagers were pressured to end their bid to have separate administrative jurisdiction. The disputes led to the forcible eviction of 23 Chin families last month, and are now displaced in nearby villages inside Mizoram. A further 22 families were given an ultimatum to leave the village by the end of May.
Children’s education disrupted
Children of the 23 families who were evicted from the village last month have since had their education disrupted. According to a source in the village’s school, only ten children from these families remain at the school, which teaches up to eighth grade. These children now either live with relatives or family acquaintances that remain in the village as their parents are banned from entering the village. Some parents who are hiding in nearby villages reportedly come to Saikhum Phai secretly during the night to keep their children company.

Calling the situation unacceptable and gross violation of the right of the child, the Zo Indigenous Forum last month submitted a complaint letter to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). ZIF said the forced separation of the children and their parents make the children vulnerable to exploitation and harm and urged the Commission to take urgent action to address the issue.
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