Villagers in Manipur wary of losing land to Myanmar

Imphal, April 23 (IANS) Leery of fencing work along Indo-Myanmar border, a committee of about 40 villages in Manipur has announced it will not allow any government official or work inside their area.

“No government agent shall be permitted to enter these border villages,” said Ngachomi Ramshang, the general secretary of ‘Chandel-Ukhrul Indo-Myanmar Border Land Protection Committee’.

The committee has been formed to represent the people of 40 tribal villages in Ukhrul and Chandel districts who fear that the central and state governments might allow their land to be ceded to Myanmar, Ramshang said.

He said the Information Centre for Hills Areas Manipur (ICHAM) has been undertaking a border survey in the backdrop of the “undenied fact” that Manipur’s territory is coveted through “missing” and “reappearing of boundary pillars deep inside Manipur’s territory”.

ICHAM also represents people who fear loss of their land to the neighbouring country.

India has been constructing a fence along the 1,624-kilometer Indo-Burma border to control smuggling, drug trafficking and insurgency.

Ramshang said it was unfortunate that the territory of Manipur has dwindled from 22,437 sq km in 1949 to 22,327 sq km in 1981.

“When these matters were raised the Manipur government has been maintaining that since it is an international issue it is the government of India which should take up proactive measures,” he said.

For Manipuris, the “gifting” of the fertile and forest-product rich Kavo Valley to the erstwhile Burma still rankles, he said.

Assam Rifles, which guards the 398 km long Manipur-Myanmar border, has sought the erection of a 10 km long fencing near the border town, Moreh, to check the movements of insurgents and smugglers.

Construction work had been started. However there were objections from the border villages since the proposed fencing ran deep inside Manipur.

A major portion of Hollenphai village near Moreh would be sliced off while the entire village of Choro Khunnou in Ukhrul district would go to Myanmar. A Home Ministry team which inspected the under construction fencing found substance in the report and the construction work was suspended.

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh informed the assembly in March that there is no information about the border dispute.

ICHAM president N. Rajendro said, “Photos and video clippings on the traditional boundaries of Manipur were submitted to the Chief Minister”.

The Indian government had approved the proposal for inspecting the boundary pillars along the traditional boundaries, but there has not been any progress in that work.

Rajendro said, “A central team along with the collector of Chandel district had visited some border villages in the district in September 2015. The villagers later found that the team had come to earmark the location for the border fence. The angry villagers stopped the officials from entering the areas.”

While the border disputes are yet to be sorted out the security forces manning the international border are not happy over the absence of the border fence. Insurgents of all hues have been sneaking in to create law and order problems.

On Wednesday three Assam Rifles troopers were wounded when five bombs were detonated at Moreh.



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