Since the brutal suppression of the people’s revolt in Burma in 1988 and as a result of the Burmese junta’s continued vicious military rule, over the past many years, hundreds of thousands of Burmese had fled their home country, seeking asylum in many countries.
In India, there are about 100,000 Burmese Refugees. Of these around 6,500 live in New Delhi, while the others live in the North-Eastern States like Mizoram and Manipur. In Delhi, the women constitute about 40% of the total population.
Burmese Refugees in India face many difficulties in terms of security, survival and other problems. Linguistic issues are crucial, as many Burmese can speak neither English nor Hindi. This makes communication and employment difficult. Even those who are lucky enough to be employed receive meager wages, but the vast majority of Burmese in Delhi do not even have a regular source of income. The Burmese tend to live in small cramped rooms with many people staying in each room. Those who do not have official Refugee Status hide out in these rooms during the day and only come out at night, for fear of the authorities. Many families cannot afford to send their young children to school, and even have to scavenge for vegetables left behind by vendors late at night.
Meanwhile, the Burmese community’s conspicuous difference from their local population, as well as their inability to speak the local languages, makes them prime targets for harassment and hostility by the local house owners, shopkeepers, employers and neighbours. Women in all these contexts are among the most vulnerable of the Burmese Refugee community. There have been many cases of violence against women in the past many months from the Indian community as well as within the Burmese community.
Many Indian groups are not fully aware either of the dire situation in Burma, or of the existence of the Burmese Refugee community here in India.