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10.02.2009 Asia

Raising voice for detained Burmese in India

By Nava Thakuria

The pro-democracy Indian civil society groups and the exile Burmese in India have come together to raise voice for the detained 34 Burmese freedom fighters in Kolkata for their immediate release from the Presidency Jail and to mount pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for granting refugee status to those detainees.

On Wednesday to mark a decade long illegal detention (of those Burmese), the Burmese Democratic Forces in India has organized a protest demonstration program in the national capital, New Delhi.

Simultaneously a book on Burma will also be released at Jantar Mantar. Dr Tint Swe, a minister of National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (in exile) will release the book titled 'Rough Agent', which has been published by the Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.

The author of the book (also a reputed human rights lawyer) Nandita Haksar will also address the February 11 gathering.

It's been 11 years since the 34 Burmese freedom fighters (most of them are Arakanese) were arrested in Andaman Island (on February 11, 1998). They are currently lodged in Presidency Jail of Kolkata. All the 34 Burmese activists were arrested by a corrupt Indian intelligence officer, Lt Col VJS Grewal who betrayed them. Moreover, Lt Col Grewal is responsible for the death of six leaders of the group, said M. Kim, a New Delhi based Burmese exile.

Talking to this writer from the Indian national capital, Kim also informed that a memorandum has been prepared for submission to the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh by the civil society groups of the country on the same occasion. The memorandum highlights the role of New Delhi in supporting the Burmese people's movement for the restoration of democracy in the past.

"We recall that India was also the first neighboring country that extended the support to the Burmese democracy movement after the 1988 Up-rising. New Delhi also recognized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's peaceful and non-violent struggle and conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to the great lady in 1993," said in the memorandum.

Burma (Myanmar) is reeling under military dictatorship for the last

47 years and any form of dissidents against the military government at Nay Pie Taw are responded in the most repressive and inhuman ways by the military junta. The Nobel laureate Suu Kyi remains under house arrest for many years now. Her party National League for Democracy won the 1990 general election, but the junta denied power transfer to the elected government. Since then the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma has been functioning in exile.

"The people of Burma were also in negotiation with the Government of India through Lt Col V.J.S Grewal for a base in India in 1995 and after two years of negotiations they were invited to come to Landfall Island in Andaman. However on their arrival to Landfall Island on February 10 (1998), 36 of the Burmese freedom fighters were arrested while six of them were killed the same day. Out of the 36 arrested two had gone missing from the Andaman Jail. The others were kept for 9 years in Port Blair and later transferred to Presidency Jail, Kolkata and continue to be imprisoned there," the memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister revealed.