More 127 refugees from Bandarban take refuge in Mizoram

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Hill Voice, 17 May 2024, Special Correspondent: At least 127 refugees of 32 families of indigenous Bawm community from the Bandarban hill district of Bangladesh were reported to have taken refuge in the Indian state of Mizoram last week. At the beginning of last April, when the KNF terrorists, known as the Bawm party created by the army, robbed the banks in Bandarban and then the joint forces led by the Bangladesh Army and DGFI, started to indiscriminately arrest, detain, kill and search the common Bawm people in the name of the operation against the KNF, many Bawm villagers left the village in fear. As a result, a part of them were again forced to take refuge in Mizoram.

According to Mizoram government accounts obtained through multiple sources, so far 1,368 Bawm people, including children and women, have been registered as refugees in at least 6 villages in Mizoram. The villages are – Khawmawi, Hruitezawl, Hmawngbu, Bungtlang South, Vathuampui and Chamdur Project. However, according to several related sources, there are 7-8 hundred refugees beyond the said estimate. As a result, the number of Bawm refugees is at least 2,000.

It is reported that a group of 124 Bawm people entered Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district from bordering Bandarban in the first phase around 2 am on Friday, 10 May 2024. Another group of 3 joined the others in the afternoon of the same day.

It is reported that 21 persons of the newly arrived refugees took refuge in the villages of Khawmawi, Hruitezawl, Hmawngbu, Bungtlang South and Vathuampui. The rest took shelter in a community hall in Chamdur Project Village.

A source said 118 of the newly arrived Bawm refugees were shifted from Chamdur Project to Chamdurtong yesterday (May 16).

It should be noted that from November 2022, the people of Bawm community started coming to India as refugees. Although officially the date of arrival of these refugees is fixed on December 12. Mizoram authorities initially pushed back the refugees several times. Later the refugees were accepted following the demands of YMA (Youth Mizo Association).

Earlier it was reported that at least 15/16 people including children have died among the refugees arriving in Mizoram. Besides, it is reported that due to the lack of valid documents, the children of the refugees are being deprived of education and these refugees are being forced to live a very inhumane and miserable life.

It may be noted that the KNF terrorists robbed Sonali Bank in Ruma on April 2 and Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank in Thanchi on April 3 and looted a huge amount of money along with 14 government firearms and ammunition and kidnapped the bank manager of Ruma Sonali Bank. After the incident, from April 7, the joint forces led by the Bangladesh Army and the DGFI started a massive military operation in the Bandarban area.

It is reported that a total of 111 people have been arrested and detained from April 7 to April 22 in the ongoing anti-KNF operation by the security forces. Among those arrested, 6 are associated with KNF, while the rest are innocent civilians including children, women. Besides, a Bawm student was shot dead in cold blood by the army in the name of crossfire and a woman was injured by a mortar shell.

Soon after the joint operation, it has been reported that the people of Bawm villages like Munnoam Para, Bethelpara, Happyhill Para, Bachtlang Para, Artha Para etc. of Bandarban have already fled the village due to fear of oppression and harassment.

It should also be noted that the Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO) was formed in 2008 under the leadership of Nathan Bawm and Vanchunliam Bawm with the support of the Army and DGFI. Later, in 2019, with the help of the army and DGFI, armed activities were started against the implementation process of the CHT Accord and against the PCJSS that had signed the Accord.

Later, when news of providing shelter and military training to an Islamic militant group in exchange for money spread, the army was forced to launch an operation against the KNF under international pressure. But despite this, the army and DGFI allegedly continued to strategically support the KNF.