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Delhi: Myanmar group not permitted to hold peaceful protest against executions by Junta

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The protest against Myanmar's execution of four democracy activists was not permitted in Delhi on Saturday. Photo: CRPH-NUG India support group/Facebook

New Delhi: A planned protest by Myanmarese dissidents against the execution of four pro-democracy activists by the military Junta was cancelled after Delhi Police did not permit it at the eleventh hour on Saturday, the organisers said.

The group, CRPH-NUG India support group, had applied to Delhi Police on Wednesday to hold a demonstration against the executions by the Junta, the first judicial killings in Myanmar in decades. The Myanmar government had announced that four prominent activists had been executed for accused of helping insurgents to fight the army that had seized power from the civilian government in a coup in February 2021.

Thousands of Myanmar nationals fled the brutal military crackdown and travelled into India, mainly across the mountainous border of the state of Mizoram. Living in exile, many of them have tried to keep alive their resistance by forming a group to increase awareness about the Junta’s human rights violations and urging the Indian government to take a more robust position against the Myanmar government.

As reflected by its name, it is aligned with the National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government formed by ousted lawmakers known as the CRPH.

After the execution of the four activists led to a new wave of international criticism and protests within Myanmar, the India-based group of dissidents asked for permission to hold a peaceful protest of around 200 individuals at Jantar Mantar on Saturday late afternoon, to express their condemnation of the “barbaric act”.

“On Wednesday, we went to the police and asked for permission… I got a call on Friday from their office, asking how many were coming… I got further calls early on Saturday morning asking about the protest. Not one of the callers said that permission had not been granted,” general secretary, CRPH-NUG India support group, William San told The Wire.

When the hired bus was ready to go to the protest venue, they learnt that police had not given any permission. “I was told that we cannot hold any demonstration. When I pressed them for a reason, the policeman said that they did not have any authority to tell me the reasons not to protest,” said San, who left Myanmar seven months ago.

He was later asked to collect the letter from Delhi Police, dated July 30, which stated that permission had not been granted “in view of security/law and order/traffic reasons”. “I was also asked to submit a signed letter that we will not hold any demonstration on Saturday,” said San.

With the permission not granted at the last minute, the group had also made preparations for their members to gather from all parts of Delhi. Unable to hold a formal protest, they just posed with their placards for photos at a park.

It had been surprising for the group not to get any permission as they had previously organised a protest after an official green light in February this year. “We had held a protest on February 22 to motivate our people and also to ask India’s help in the restoration of democracy,” said another senior office-bearer of the group. He did not want to be identified with his real name to avoid putting his family members living in Myanmar in danger.

For San and other group members, the lack of approval was disappointing as they had hoped to bring more attention to the critical situation inside Myanmar. A poem published on their Facebook page expressed their anguish, comparing India’s actions to that of kicking a person who has already been trampled to the ground.

After the February 1 coup, India expressed “deep concern” and called for a democratic transition in Myanmar. However, New Delhi had also taken a more muted stance compared to western countries, worried about the security situation in the adjoining north-eastern states and keeping open channels of outreach with the Junta.

India was also worried about China’s presence, which has used its diplomatic clout to shield Myanmar from widespread international censure.

In June last year, India abstained on a UNGA resolution on Myanmar on the grounds that it did not “aid efforts towards strengthening democratic process”. By then, India had also put its weight behind the regional bloc ASEAN’s peace efforts based on the Five Point Consensus.

However, ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, has also become disenchanted with the Junta’s lack of progress in implementing the roadmap toward political stability and democracy.

After the announcement of the executions of democracy activists, the ASEAN chairman, Cambodia, denounced them as “highly reprehensible” on July 26. Cambodia also described the Junta’s actions as demonstrating a “gross lack of will” to support the implantation of ASEAN’s five-point consensus peace plan.

Two days later, India reacted to the executions, noting the developments with “deep concern”. Stating that the rule of law and democratic process must be upheld, the MEA spokesperson said, “As a friend of the people of Myanmar, we will continue to support Myanmar’s return to democracy and stability”.