Agash Mahapasra, election observer of the commission for the Assembly poll, recently asked election officials in Saiha district of Mizoram bordering both Myanmar and Bangladesh, to be “ careful and cautious” while carrying out the update of electoral rolls and remove names of alleged illegal migrants.
Mizoram shares a 404km international border with Myanmar and a 318km boundary with Bangladesh and most of these border areas are unfenced, leading to unchecked infiltration from both neighbouring countries.
According to official sources, while it is difficult to properly ascertain the exact number of illegal migrants since the people of the bordering Chin state in Myanmar have the same ethnicity as Mizos, the increase in labourers from Bangladesh is becoming a threat to the state’s demography.
Mahapasra has also asked poll officials to check the identity of suspected illegal migrants on the basis of their birth and educational certificates.
The increase in infiltration of Myanmarese Mizos in recent years has been facilitated by an order of the Mizoram government in the nineties allowing their entry into a radius of 16km of the state’s border to enable them to carry out trade and commercial activities.
According to intelligence sources in Mizoram, there would roughly be about 75,000 settlers in the state from Myanmar and most of them have taken advantage of their unrestricted entry for border trading.
Sources said most of them find odd jobs as workers in scores of automobile repair shops, laundries, restaurants and as domestics. Sources also confirmed that some illegal migrants are allegedly working as drug peddlers and bootleggers.
In the case of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, most work in masonry and bakeries in Mizoram, but their numbers are difficult to guess as some enter Assam’s Karimganj district first and subsequently come to Mizoram to work in construction sites here.