Early this year, the Manipur government’s proposal for setting up 34 police outposts along the Indo-Myanmar international border from Jesami in Ukhrul district to Behiang in Churachandpur district was approved by the Centre.
While the stated objective is to check illegal immigration and drug smuggling from Myanmar along the border, a major area of concern is the frequent encroachment of territory along the border by Myanmar villagers with active support from their army and border officials.
There is also the case of runaway boundary pillars or subsidiary pillars whatever you call it. The four states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share a border with Myanmar along the 398 km stretch. The districts bordering Myanmar in Manipur are Chandel, Tengnoupal, Kamjong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur and are quite porous while border security is thin.
Besides, Assam Rifles which is assigned the duty of maintaining border security along the Indo-Myanmar border has also internal security duties of dealing with insurgents. The situation has become all the more serious since the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar. Mizoram and Manipur is getting the spill-over effect of refugees from across the border or rebels fleeing the military onslaught.
Currently, Mizoram state is giving shelter to an unspecified number of such immigrants. Interestingly, those who crossed over to Mizoram did not stay there long and their ultimate destination is Churachandpur. Why do they come to Churachandpur instead of staying in Mizoram? It is because Churachandpur has more people with whom they have close ethnic relations including language and more sympathy.
Myanmar refugees migrating to Manipur. It has been going on for years and in fact, this migration was one of major concerns of the anti-foreigners movement in the 80s. Now, these newcomers have taken over the political space after usurping the indigenous Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups already settled in the state.
In such a scenario, it is but strange that some villages along the border should be objecting to the establishment of police outposts along the border. Some of these villages cry foul whenever there is incursion from the Myanmarese side and talk about the Manipur government or for that matter the Indian government neglecting the border regions.
Recently, Chiefs of border villages in Tengnoupal districts have once again reiterated opposition to the state government's proposed plans for establishment of police stations and police outposts in the border areas of the district.
A joint meeting seems to have resolved to take a joint stand against the establishment of the said stations and outposts, in a joint release signed by Haolenphai village chief LalkholunHaokip, T Bongmol village chief HempaoTouthang, Chonjang village chief TiljathangBaite, Motha village chief WS Molun Anal, J Munnomjang village chief LunkhosatHaokip, and Govajang village chief NgamkholunKipgen.
Stranger still, no valid reasons were given for opposing the government move. These village authorities must spell out the real reasons for objecting to the government move which we sincerely think is in the interest of the state’s borders as well as of checking illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Frequent border incursions by Myanmar villagers backed by their authorities along the Manipur sector of the international border and cases of missing boundary pillars or shifting of the pillars had become a norm in the recent past.