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Mizoram government launches drive to detect foreigners

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2020 11:24 pm

Aizawl, March 11 (PTI): The Mizoram government has launched a massive drive to detect foreigners residing in the state, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The state government, in the exercise that began in early February, is identifying unauthorised villages set up allegedly by immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, he said.

The drive comes nearly a year after the state legislature passed the Mizoram Maintenance of Household Registers Bill, 2019, that seeks to identify foreigners residing in the state.

The bill is pending with President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent.

The drive is being carried out by the state’s Home department and Local Administration Department (LAD), the official said.

LAD secretary Rodney Ralte told PTI there are around 19 unauthorised villages in Lunglei, Champhai, Mamit and Serchhip districts allegedly established by Bangladeshi immigrants.

The majority of the unauthorised villages are in south Mizoram’s Lunglei district, while three are in Champhai, two in Mamit and one in Serchhip, he said.

Ralte said the unauthorised villages are mostly inhabited by people of Chakma and Bru communities.

Under the drive being conducted by the district deputy commissioners, officials are listing names of residents of the villages, verifying their identities and asking them whether they have permission to establish the settlements, the official said.

“Strong appeal from civil society groups and student bodies has prompted the state government to carry out the foreigner detection drive. Genuine residents of Mizoram will be asked to return to their parent villages in the state and foreigners will be pushed back to their respective countries,” Ralte said.

The official meanwhile claimed that the exercise is not akin to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“No NRC exercise is being carried out anywhere in Mizoram. The state government is only identifying unauthorised villages and foreigners as per the existing law,” he said.

Ralte said the state government has also issued a notification banning developmental activities in all the unauthorised settlements, and asked churches and non- governmental organisations not to take up any such work.

LAD officials said Tuichawngchhuah, an illegal village in Lunglei district settled by Chakmas, has been vacated after the residents were served an eviction order in May last year.

The residents have shifted to nearby Tuichawng village, they said.
The officials said Belva, another illegal settlement in the same district, has also been deserted.

Earlier this month, Chakma politicians and leaders, including BJP’s lone legislator in the state, Buddha Dhan Chakma and the party’s national council member Nirupam Chakma wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to stop the drive, which they termed as “illegal NRC”.

They alleged that the Mizoram government was specifically targeting the Chakmas through the drive.

“The illegal survey has been conducted in at least 14 Chakma-inhabited villages of Lunglei district. No such survey is being conducted in any Mizo-inhabited village,” they said in the letter.

The Buddhist Chakmas are a minority in Christian- dominated Mizoram and mainly concentrated in Lunglei and Lawngtlai districts located near the India-Bangladesh border.

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2020 11:24:45 pm