“The people in Myanmar uprooted the traditional teak border pillar and threw it into the river,” a village chief said, lamenting about the encroachment by Myanmar into a border village in Manipur, India.
Prolonged border dispute along the India-Myanmar border in Manipur continues to shrink Manipur’s total geographical area with Myanmar reportedly moving border pillars to usurp land in various parts of the state’s porous border, according to sources.
Although the issue has been plaguing the state for decades, the matter drew mainstream attention with the outbreak over the controversial border pillar number 81 in Kwatha village, Tengnoupal district, Manipur.
Now, the issue has spread to the border villages of Kamjong district along the India-Myanmar border.
In order to ascertain the matter, a team of media persons along with members of United Committee Manipur (UCM), inspected the porous borders in Kamjong district on February 15 and 16.
During the two-day visit, the teams inspected the border pillar number 104 at Phaikoh, pillar No 6 at Zingsophai Choro and 92 (Old pillar number 6) situated at K Ashang Khullen.
Villagers claimed that the Burmese had moved the border pillars several kilometres inside Manipur’s territory and expressed disappointment that the concerned authorities remained apathetic to the issue for decades.
Village Chiefs’ Accounts
The team first visited border pillar number 104, near Phaikoh village, on February 15, during which village chief Haoshi Touthang claimed that the Google map of Manipur and the border pillars enacted did not match with each other.
“The map shows several villages of Manipur inside Myanmar’s border, even Phaikoh village is shown as falling on Myanmar side,” he added.
The Phaikoh village questioned how Phaikoh village, which falls under India’s territory of the border pillar, be included in Myanmar’s territory on Google map. As such, Haoshi expressed disappointment with both the Union and state governments for remaining silent spectators while Myanmar continued to push their border into Manipur.
Pointing out that Border Pillar 104 had not been moved, Haosi highlighted that around 5 km of Manipur’s land surrounding the pillar had been covered under Myanmar’s territory by moving adjacent pillars.
The chief urged both the Indian Union and state governments to muster political will and reinstate the state’s original border.
The second visit took the team roughly 3 km inside Myanmar’s border to traditional border pillar number 6 (allegedly destroyed by Burmese) near Zingsophai Choro (Z Choro) village, Kamjong district.
Speaking to the media, Chief of Z Choro village, Kaphung Yui Asara, claimed that the new border pillar number 6 had been pushed around 3 km inside Manipur’s territory from its original location.
“The Myanmarese uprooted the traditional teak border pillar and threw it into the river,” the village chief said.
Kaphung maintained that he had kept the original pillar area marked to tell authorities when the time came.
The Z Choro village chief highlighted that both MPs, Lorho Pfoze and RK Ranjan, had visited Z Choro village but did not inspect the disputed pillar number 6 during their visit.
“The villagers have also raised the issue to the district’s deputy commissioner, SDO and other departments with little success”, he said.
Hence, he reiterated the villagers’ resolution not to give away even an inch of Manipur’s land and stated that fencing can commence only when border demarcation between the two countries is ascertained.
The last leg of the inspection took the team to border pillar number 92 (old pillar number 8) where chief of K Ashang Khullen (Ato) village, P Hungyo, claimed that around 9 km of land near the village had fallen to Myanmar’s border.
“Although border pillar 91 and 92 are close, the villagers have not found pillar number 93 and 94 till now,” he said.
He alleged that their Myanmar counterpart had failed to honour the traditional boundary and claimed that people from the Myanmar side frequently encroach upon Manipur’s forest to cut trees.
“Although no violent conflict between the bordering villagers has erupted till now, the continued confusion about the border demarcation may spark such in the future”, he said.
Hungyo also pointed out that SDO, DC, MLA and both the inner and outer MPs had assured to raise the matter to the Central government but no action ever materialised. He urged both the Union and state governments to address the disputed border at the earliest to avoid untoward incidents between the villagers.
Meanwhile, addressing the media on the issue, UCM president Joychandra Konthoujam stated that the border issue in Manipur had been stretched thin and needed urgent intervention from authorities. He claimed that UCM initiated the inspection from border pillar number 67 and found several border pillars to be misplaced.
“The border pillars were enacted after agreement between India and Myanmar government, no opinions of villages along border were taken into consideration”, he said.
Joychandra also pointed out that the Rangoon Agreement had not been implemented in demarcating the borders.
He further expressed disappointment with the government’s failure to stick to their resolutions and protect the borders according to the agreement.
“Both the state and union government have failed to prevent Burmese encroachment and safeguard the border pillars”, he said.
Hence, Joychandra suggested that the border issue could be resolved by studying the census reports and demarcating the boundary of Kabaw valley.
He reiterated the need to implement the Rangoon Agreement and urged the state government to table the border issue for discussion during the Assembly session.
Joychandra said the committee along with the people would resort to strong agitations if the government failed to addressed the matter immediately.