The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has recently issued an order demanding the prompt release and deportation of Myanmarese refugees who have been unlawfully detained in state jails beyond their authorized period. The order, passed on May 3 by MHRC Chairperson Justice UB Shah, highlighted the continued detention of convict prisoners even after completing their sentences.
The order was prompted by a petition that raised concerns about the unlawful detention of six Myanmarese minors, along with their mothers and grandmothers, who were held in jail despite serving their prescribed sentences. Initially arrested by the Churachandpur police, they were kept in the Churachandpur jail throughout their sentence. After completing their sentence, they were subsequently transferred to the central jail in Imphal, which was being used as a detention center for illegal immigrants by the state administration.
The MHRC order revealed that the jail authority had already raised the matter with the Commissioner (Home), Government of Manipur, seeking the deportation of the refugees to Myanmar. In response, the MHRC ordered their immediate release and directed the state government to take up the issue with the Union Home Minister for their immediate deportation to Myanmar.
The order passed by MHRC Chairperson Justice UB Shah observed that the “convict prisoners are detained in the jail even after completion of their period of imprisonment”.
According to sources within the commission, Manipur jails are currently holding 35 Myanmar nationals, including children, who are awaiting resolution of their cases.
Meanwhile, as per a report, Salai Dokhar, the founder of India For Myanmar, a group dedicated to assisting Myanmar refugees, stated in an interview with RFA Burmese that a special commando group carried out the arrests of the 170 refugees during door-to-door raids conducted in 17 villages within the Lawngtlai district of Moreh township.
Dokhar expressed concern over the actions of Indian authorities, stating that they had been conducting population surveys in every household for about a month.
“The Indian authorities have been searching and collecting population data in each and every house for about a month. We think that they have a plan to do something once they have the statistics,” said Dokhar.
Since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, over 60,000 individuals have crossed the border into India, as reported by India for Myanmar. Out of this number, more than 10,000 refugees have found themselves in Manipur. Indian authorities have repeatedly targeted the refugees, the organisation says, noting that the operation was the fifth time in two years police had sought to detain them.
In a report issued in March, it was revealed that authorities in Manipur have detained a total of 170 refugees from villages along the Myanmar border since the beginning of the year. This information was provided by the refugees themselves as well as an aid group, leading others to seek shelter in the jungle or return home to avoid arrest.