The Delhi Dilemma
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Monday, May 23, 2022

The Delhi Dilemma

By ZARNI MANN Thursday, February 17, 2011

In this photograph taken on June 25, 2009, an ethnic Chin refugee mother and child sit in a corner near a calendar bearing a Cross in their living quarters in New Delhi. (Photo; Getty Images)

NEW DELHI—When he heard that he was to be forcefully recruited as a porter for the Burmese army for a second time, Awn Khan Pauhe and his family packed a few belonging, said goodbye to their relatives and neighbors, and left their ancestral home of Tedim in Chin State and headed across the border to India and traveled by bus to New Delhi.

Although they had lost their home and their livelihoods, and were now destitute in a cramped city where they could not speak the language, the Chin farming family felt nothing but relief.

"The Burmese soldiers said they lost their equipment and beat me on my face and back with their guns,” said Awn Khan Pauhe. “Later, I sneaked out and ran back to my village. I went into hiding so they wouldn't find me. They went o my house and beat my wife. We decided we had to leave the village. I knew a friend in Delhi and that's why we came here.”

He and his family crossed the Indo-Burmese border and passed through Mizoram. Then they caught a bus to New Delhi.

His wife, Tweal Ngaih Nem, found a job working at sweater-knitting factory. She earns a monthly wage of 3,500 rupees [US $75], not enough to feed her family.

“The rental for our single room is 2,000 rupees per month, so we have 1,500 rupees for electric bills, gas, rice and cooking oil. We don't have for curries, so we have to go through the waste to collect vegetables at the weekend night bazaars after the vendors have gone,” said Awn Khan Pau, holding up some rotten cauliflower leaves. He said that it has been a long time since they had fish or meat.

On the floor of his tiny room under a dim light, a pile of rotten cauliflower leaves sit alongside a pack of stale French beans and potatoes. There is a small gas stove, and an old plastic mat on which their three boys lie fast asleep, covered with old blankets.

The urban areas of New Delhi's Vikaspuri, Janakpuri, Sitapuri and Hastsal's weekly night bazaars are the most dependable scavenging spots for Burmese refugees. But as basic commodities prices are increasing dramatically around India, alongside higher room rentals, many Burmese refugees must collect stale or rotten foodstuffs from the night bazaars to survive.

“Last December, we were recognized as refugees and got some social assistance—20,000 rupees ($440) for a whole family—from the YMCA,” said one. “I'm so worried that one of us gets sick.”

After receiving a certificate as a recognized refugees from the UNHCR, the Burmese refugees in India can collect around 1,000 to 2,000 rupees per person per month from the YMCA, but only for three months.

Most Burmese refugees or migrants work in menial jobs—as cleaners, porters and garment factory workers. For who understand Hindi, English or have some knowledge of computers, there are a few possibilities in offices, in which a Burmese can earn up to 5,000 rupees a month. Indians doing the same job will earn 7,000 to 8,000 rupees, though.

Other difficulties for the Burmese include cultural and language problems. They frequently report problems or grievances with neighbors, colleagues and landlords.

Awn Khan Pau said his family is lucky to have a kind landlord, but complains that Indian workers in his apartment block are not as accepting.

“The neighbors mostly work as security guards,” he said. “They come home drunk, kick the doors, shout and make lots of noise. Some night, we cannot sleep at all. We all have to share one bathroom, but even if we are using it, they barge in and tell us to leave.”

Like Awn Khan Pau's family, there are many Chin people who left their villages and came to New Delhi in 2010. Tawk Theiam and her husband left Mong Than village located near Thantlang Township in June.

“Our friend said if we have difficulties in Burma, we can go to New Delhi where there is a UNHCR office that helps Burmese refugees,” Tawk Theiam said. “My husband is working at a jeans factory. We also collect old vegetables at the night markets because his salary is not enough.”

There are an estimated 50,000 Burmese, Kachin and Chin refugees in India, Chin being the majority. There are a handful of NGOs that provide assistance, but it is limited.

'Since we have to depend on donors, and the number of Chin refugees is increasing, we cannot help everyone in need,” said David, the secretary of the Chin Refugees Committee in New Delhi.

He said that of the 9,000 Chin refugees in 2010, his organization could only provide rice and money to 170 households.

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kerry Wrote:
Burmese people the world over need assistance.

If the UN cannot deal with the 'fake democracy' junta (backed by China) with more strength and clarity, they need to atleast assist with the fallout, and the refugee resettlememnt in neighbourisng countries.

These people are human beings.

China, wake up! It is time to join the 21st century (and I don't just mean shopping)!

Mang Hlei Cung Wrote:
Thanks for your information to be heard by the world. But one thing I would like to add. That is regarding funeral service. If a person (refugee)is passed a way in New Delhi, there is no help from any NGOs or UNHCR office.

myitja Wrote:
It is pity to see the Chin refugees bearing such hardship whilst applying refugee status in transit countries.

From my opinion, Chins are deserting their homeland. Since it would be difficult for agriculture and trading in Chinland, it is the best for Chins either to service in Burmese army or left homeland for refugee status then take better education/life abroad.

Event Burmese army would be difficult to survive in Chin Hills, I don't think they want to occupy permanently there.

PB Publico Wrote:
I am simply ashamed to be an ethnic Bama for the kind of brutalities done on the Chins or any others.

It is all the more saddening for being unable to do anything to help, while we all are at the junta's mercy even for a local movement. This junta has so much money and yet does not provide proper equipment to its own men. Instead, its troops force poor vilagers, prisoners and other helpless people as porters and mine sweepers.
The troops' cowardice is beyond words; I really have lost words to properly describe their horrid actions. The army men are paid, fed and housed at home, and I believe the equipment and supply-transport charges are paid out to the commanders in advance of any operation.

I don't know what they do with the public money paid out before they leave their bases.

I have known many Chins in my professional life. I have liked them. They are good, honest people, worthy citizens of Burma, unlike the wealth-amassing generals and their lackies, who are undeniably bad.

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