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Why Did Mizoram’s CM Go Against The Centre To Support Those Fleeing Myanmar?

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While Mizoram’s Chief Minister Zoramthanga expressed solidarity with 700+ people who, after alleged atrocities by the Junta in Myanmar, crossed over into the state seeking refuge, the Centre needs not just to respond positively but also manoeuvre the security situation evenly.

Although the seeds for tension were sown, back in November 2020, when the Military of Myanmar (Tatmadaw) accused the Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy (NLD) party of irregularity and voter frauds in the general elections, it was the morning of 1 February, 2021 which officially saw a coup d’etat in the country. 

Myanmar Coup Protest
Protest against military coup in Myanmar. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

The democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party, the NLD, were deposed by Myanmar’s military — which vests power in stratocracy. President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained and the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing assumed leadership.

How have the locals responded to the Coup?

For a country that has been beset with political instability since its independence, this wasn’t a surprise but perturbing, for people felt their hard-fought battle for democracy had been lost. The military had ruled Myanmar from 1962 until 2011. And the 2020 general elections offered a glimmer of hope of constitutional reforms. 

In early 2021 in opposition to the coup d’état, the domestic civil resistance efforts, known locally as the Spring Revolution, have mainly been peaceful and non-violent. Yet, as per the news on CNN, at least 500+ people have been killed by the Junta. Fearing persecution and uncertainty about their future in the country, 700+ Burmese nationals, including police officers and civilians, fled to Mizoram. 

What could this mean for India? What is Mizoram’s CM Advising? 

Myanmar and India share a 1,600 KMs border, of which Mizoram alone accounts for 500 KMs. Mizoram and the Chin state in Myanmar have shared ethnicities. 

Zoramthanga held a virtual meeting with the Myanmar Foreign Minister-in-exile Zin Mar Aung of the National League for Democracy despite the Home Ministry’s advisory to the border state governments, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, to identify Myanmar nationals fleeing the coup and deport them.

Mizoram’s CM also said that Mizoram couldn’t be indifferent to the Chin Communities suffering who were ethnically Mizo brethren, as per the Indian Express.

Mizo-Chin Bhai Bhai

India Myanmar Border
Mizoram shares a border with Myanmar.

Before arriving at any definitive conclusion about his statements, one must understand the underlying notions. The Chin Hills or the Indo-Chin hill ranges are mountainous regions in north-western Myanmar. Home to the Zo people, including all the tribes that come under Chin-Kuki-Mizo ethnic group, the region is culturally and socially close to the people on the other side of the border, especially in the districts of Champhai and Serchhip. 

Besides the shared ethnicity, shared religion binds these two people, notwithstanding the number of people (pegged at 88%) who follow Christianity in the state. Furthermore, Rih Dil in Chin State, Myanmar, is a spiritual lake for the Mizos, deeply revered in folklore. 

Also, an agreement called the Free Movement Regime (FMR) permits people to traverse 16 KMs on both sides of the border and also stay up to 14 days.  

It’s perhaps due to such reasons that the Mizo National Front decided to give up its secessionist demand and the use of violence in 1986, culminating in the formation of their state, Mizoram. 

How can India address this humanitarian Crisis? 

Over the years, refugees like Afghans, Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, etc., have been welcomed in the country, but India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under the convention, 145 signatory states grant asylum and provide for visa-free travel for holders of refugee travel documents. 

According to the Centre, illegal migrants use the limited opportunities available to the locals, thereby infringing their fundamental rights. The Central government is right in its analysis. However, scrutinising the situation at the regional level is a must for stability in Northeast India. 

For instance, just 2 days after the Military Coup in Myanmar, the apex Mizo Students Body, the Mizo Zirlai Pawl, held a sit-in demonstration in Aizawl to show solidarity with the Burmese people. Several Mizo Village Council authorities have issued statements and letters confirming their willingness to support Chin people seeking asylum in the state. 

Thus, the Centre can’t turn a blind eye to the situation in Myanmar. It must deal passively and hold discussions with Zoramthanga and the Chief Ministers of the remaining border states. The Union government must remain vigilant and strengthen security in the Indo-Burmese border areas, which remain porous until the situation returns to normalcy in Myanmar, which seems bleak at best.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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