“Oh brother, why have you tarnished my name?”
North East India is a complexity that outsiders will struggle to understand, simply because most of us from this region itself don’t understand our own complexities.
It is on such occasions that we look on to experts and academia for their pedantic researches. Stereotypes are easy to manufacture when ignorance persists, especially if defamation spits out venom in the form of unprofessional biased Reports.
The recently published HRW (Human Rights Watch) report had done just that – demonized the peace-loving state of Mizoram and horrified people all over the world into believing Mizoram is as bad as Afghanistan or Uganda.
I edited the above map from the HRW site for easier understanding. The area marked in yellow is Burma, including the blue area which are the Chin states. The area in red is Mizoram, a part of India which shares 404 KM long border with Burma (40% of Mizoram’s entire border).
Mizos, Chins and many others in this region share the same ancestry but are divided by an International border and a few dialect differences.
These people in the Chin states of Burma face extreme torture under the evil Thatmadaw (Burmese Army) regime and frequently flee to Mizoram to escape persecution. Everybody knows what is happening in Burma but nobody is willing to do anything about it. The Chin cause is like the Tibetan cause – Lost. It becomes a dinner-table conversation topic, and remains just that.
Just like Biafra, or Rwanda, or North Korea, people exclaim… “oh shittt…” when they hear the news. And then they carry on with their lives. Sure, people like you and me may not have the power to change the world, but Super Powers can… oh wait, I forgot. There ain’t no oil in those places. Stupid me.
Recently the HRW filed a report on the Chin people, aptly termed “We are like forgotten people”.
We are like forgotten people – Part 5 - Life for Chin in Mizoram.
The content under section 5, called “Life for Chin in Mizoram” was terrifyingly disturbing. Keep reading this post to know what I’m talking about.
Meanwhile, I respectfully urge the HRW to take notice of this too. This is not one of those pompous “Open letter to somebody who’s not going to give a damn” articles. But I do need to address the people responsible for this report in a very direct and personal way.
Dear Amy Alexander, Sara Colm, Elaine Pearson and the rest of you who had dedicated their life to such a noteworthy cause as the HRW, I just wish to convey my utmost support and commendation for the admirable work that you’ve been doing in the name of humanity.
Having said that, I would also like to convey my disappointment on the quality of work rendered at the section “Life for Chin in Mizoram” in your article “We are like forgotten people”.
I wouldn’t exactly call it shoddy, but it definitely reeked of favoritism and lacked any mature signs of professionalism.
Believe me, my heart and sympathy go out to the Chin people. But you didn’t have to take Mizoram down just to exhibit and magnify their plight.
Your report: “Life for Chin in Mizoram” couldn’t have been more one-sided!
You’ve branded Mizoram and the Mizos as a devil-incarnate in your report, like the kind of villains Rambo would shoot down with no mercy if his latest movie was extended for another 10 minutes. Everything was negative about Mizoram, right from the very beginning to the afterthought. Believe me, that negativity will linger in anyone’s mind after reading it. In that page alone, Mizoram was mentioned 233 times.
233 times of mostly criticisms, vile dirty criticisms about Mizoram.
Everything was so biased, with no actual research done to hear the other side of the story. Well, let me be that voice for you, if you think I’m not worthy of an interview since I’m not one of those persecuted by the Junta.
Starting with the very first point on that page:
“Here [in India] I am like a prisoner. Even though India is the biggest democratic country, staying in India is like staying in prison: no freedom, no happiness, no money to take care of my family.”
-Chin refugee living in New Delhi, India 
First of all, we’re talking about a Chin refugee living in DELHI and the problem he faced with India as a country. So why was this issue placed right under “Life for Chin in MIZORAM” section as if to single out Mizoram or somehow imply that Mizos were responsible for the treatment he received in Delhi?
Secondly, let us put aside (for a moment) the discrimination he faced in Delhi. FYI, not only Mizos from Mizoram but the entire Northeastern community face such discriminations in mainland India especially in Delhi. If the refugee felt he was treated badly, he should know that even WE face that same treatment and many of us still feel like a stranger in our own country.
Regarding all those lines and paragraphs about how Chin people in Mizoram are discriminated when it comes to jobs and salaries, I wonder why Ms. Amy Alexander never MENTIONED in the report that the Mizos in Mizoram THEMSELVES are not able to find any work or jobs that pay enough, therefore many of us are forced to migrate to other parts of India looking for jobs.
That was a cheap shot, Ms. Amy, really cheap and sly.
It wouldn’t have hurt to mention in your report that the economy of Mizoram is too small and underdeveloped to maintain this large influx of Chin refugees in Mizoram, which by the way is more than 100,000. That’s roughly 10% the population of Mizoram.
10% of an entire population is not a miniscule amount, mind you.
Suppose we look at America, based on the data of “total number of refugees that enter the country every year” from NCELA and US Dept of Health and Human Serivces - Office of Refugee Resettlement, the total number of refugees who entered America between 1988 and 2008 (the same period of time when Chins came to Mizoram) is roughly 1,300,000 which is just around 0.5% of the Country’s population.
And Mizoram is not even comparable to America in terms of development. There must be at least more than 100,000 Americans whose personal asset value individually is more than the collective wealth of all the Mizos put together. Many people now feel that if this is the response Mizos are getting from the World community, then Chins are always free to move to neighboring states like Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Tripura etc.
Do the maths, dear Ms. Amy. Mizoram – high unemployment among youth – lack of opportunity – lack of modern technology – lack of MNCs and other private sectors – saturated government services – no means of self development - restless youth everywhere with qualifications but no job openings… When we can’t even feed our own mouth, why do you crucify us for not being able to feed the Chin people?
Seriously, it is fine by me if you mention about this issue, as long as you also mention in the same sentence about our current situation. Our Chin brothers need all the help they can get from anyone who are ABLE to provide them. But by avoiding that fact, it looks like you’re just trying to win the sympathy of “overloaded philanthropists” who have no idea what or where Mizoram is.
This is completely hogwash, ma’am.
This is another quotation many of us fail to digest, and has caused a huge furor not just in the Zo online community but back home too.
The way [the Mizos] think is that killing a Chin person is like killing a dog. It is not that serious.
- One Chin woman.
All I can say is, Whaaaaat????
Everybody’s totally shocked at such a statement because this goes way beyond anyone’s most vivid imagination. How could any normal sane human-being say that?
Due to this, we had to moderate and delete many comments that poured in at our discussion forums. Comments like, “If that’s how they feel and how the World is going to look at us now, might as well…”
I don’t even want to continue typing such disgusting comments…
See the seed you’ve planted?
This report definitely alienated the Mizos further away from the Chins and we tried our best to control the damage by removing provocative comments that poured in regularly.
And with such reports highlighted in Reuters, BBC, FoxNews, AP (Associated Press) and many more, the world is now going to look at us in a completely different way.
Like what many Mizos and Mizo expatriates commented, sometimes people exaggerate a lot so that they can get a refugee status as quick as possible from developed countries and migrate there. No offence intended to all my Chin brothers who had migrated to other Countries – I know the treatments you’ve faced in Burma are genuine. But is it really this bad in Mizoram? Is this how you really feel we consider you all as? I need to know this, straight from your heart.
I would really LOVE to meet this Chin woman who made that statement. Sit down with her for a cup of tea. Listen to her story. If she is lying, ask her why politely. If she is telling the truth, ask her to take me to this Mizo who treated her like that and take appropriate actions against him.
And dear Ms. Amy, in your entire article you failed to mention one very IMPORTANT factor, probably the most important factor if I may say so. And that is the CRIME rate of the Chin refugees in Mizoram (mind you, I am not generalizing the entire Chin community elsewhere here).
You yourself mentioned that Mizos accepted the Chins during the first wave of migration in spite of India not being a part of either the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol.
We never complained about that influx or the many others that followed, after all, they are our brothers.
And then you started writing about how Mizos are now pushing these Chins back into Burma, like as if they are diseased or something. I admit there exists many tensions between the local population and the Chins. To deny that would be to blatantly lie in order to save one’s face. But I won’t resort to such blinded chauvinism. There is a lot of truth in your report, but the way you have reported it is completely wrong.
Yes, many Mizos aren’t exactly the best of friends with the Chins.
But in your long course of research and interviews etc, I am surprised you never took any effort to find out how this rift took place. Did you think the Mizos suddenly woke up one fine day and decided, “Hey I hate the Chins!” ???
Many crimes in Mizoram, especially burglary and drugs trafficking are committed by people from Burma. This is a fact. I am angry at my own Mizoram Government for not taking any effort to publicize this fact to the Human Rights Watch commission. People always have an unfortunate incident to narrate regarding the time they were robbed by their maid or servant from Burma. Watch the evening news about the police nabbing a thief who stole a bike or a pusher caught with drugs, and chances are, they are usually from Burma.
My family itself had been a victim on many occasions. Whenever a maidservant leaves for her home [Burma] for “vacation”, a lot of stuff from our house disappears, and she never returns. Once our maid even ran away from our house in the middle of the night taking along with her all our expensive household possessions that she could grab.
And at our farm in Neihbawih, Sihphir, two different sets of Chin caretakers ran away from our farm taking along with them our entire livestock (cows, pigs, hens etc). When the first set ran away, we rebuilt it from scratch suffering a HUGE loss. And then the same thing happened again in spite of my relatives telling my father not to hire people from Burma again.
Now our farm is completely ruined, but fortunately it is now utilized by my cousin who runs a de-addiction center [Bethesda Care Center] there, free of charge. Yes, at least those untoward incidents led to this noble venture, but the way it happened is not exactly right, don’t you also agree?
This is also the main topic of discussion regarding this issue at any Mizo discussion forum. One user called chenguaio from misual.com commented:
TO AMY ALEXANDER, incompetent self ambitious so called social worker :
my brothers and sisters come from burma, i take them in, WITH EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES.
BUT THEY SELL DRUGS TO MY KIDS, STEAL and RAPE my daughter. Madame AMY, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Believe me, Amy ma’am, this is the sentiments shared by many.
My mom is now skeptical about employing anybody from Burma, but my dad is still the same. He tries not to stereotype and has been called a fool many times whenever he pays for his principles. But I admire him for that and follow his footsteps. I abhor generalization of any kind, but I do not speak on behalf of the entire Mizoram population.
Hence with every reported crime that came in, Mizos grew further and further apart from our Chin brothers, such that all it required in the end was a single matchstick to ignite the fuse. And that was lit with the rape of a nine-year-old girl on July 17, 2003. The Mizos cried out, “Enough is enough!”.
That’s the “Quit Mizoram” movement you were talking about in your report.
Sure, many of us condemn the fact that a lot of innocent Chins had to pay for the crimes of a few, especially through mob-rule methods. But we need to look into the crux of this matter deeper.
Much as I did not support that movement, I don’t blame the Mizos. I don’t even blame the Chins who committed such crimes in Mizoram. Just like how Mizos have a reason for resorting to that, the Chins too committed such crimes because they were driven to desperation. Desperation that arises from the utterly pathetic socio-political and economic conditions back home in Burma.
Hence we need to point our fingers back at the military regime in Burma. The real bastards who are killing my brothers.
Maybe for once we can stop spreading the blame everywhere. What’s happening in Mizoram is just the ricochet caused by what’s happening in Burma. If we all concentrate our focus back to Burma alone, none of this will happen again. My brothers will be free in their own homeland, instead of being forgotten by the World.
Brother of a Chin.