“There was shooting in the village, bullets were flying through the window, so we had to hide under the sofa,” Ngunchhan, a 57-year-old refugee from Myanmar told me. Ngunchhan is one of the many refugees who fled to India following a military coup in Myanmar in February 2021. “When it got a little quiet, we ran to the forest. We did not even eat a meal before we left, we were too scared,” she continued. “Since my husband is no more, me and my daughter were afraid of what they might do to us, we did not carry anything with us. We just ran away.”
I met Ngunchhan in Thekte, one of the last villages in Mizoram before the Indo-Myanmar border. It takes around ten hours by car from Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, to Thekte. The village has over six hundred residents. Along with some of its neighbouring towns, it has become a safe haven for those fleeing Myanmar. According to Reuters, the Myanmar military has killed at least a thousand people and arrested thousands in a crackdown aimed at crushing local resistance to the coup. In May, a United Nations spokesperson estimated that around four thousand to six thousand refugees have fled into India from Myanmar following the coup. In December, the Mizoram government estimated that around fourteen thousand Myanmar nationals are seeking shelter in different parts of the state.
The refugees are currently reliant on donations from individuals, churches and human-rights organisations for their daily needs. The Central Young Mizo Association, or YMA, a leading non-profit in Mizoram, has been taking the lead in gathering volunteers to build makeshift shelters for the refugees and providing them daily essentials, including food and clothing, with the support of donations.