"Illegal Myanmarese Set Up Villages, Refused Shelters": Manipur Panel

"Illegal Myanmarese Set Up Villages, Refused Shelters": Manipur Panel

Illegal Myanmarese Set Up Villages, Refused Shelters: Manipur Panel



A recent report by a Manipur cabinet subcommittee has revealed that over 2,000 illegal immigrants from Myanmar have established their own villages inside the state and refused to move to designated shelters provided by the government. The report has sparked a controversy among the Kuki tribes, who claim that they are being harassed and branded as illegal immigrants by the BJP-led state government.

What does the report say?

The report was prepared by a cabinet subcommittee headed by Tribal Affairs and Hill Development Minister Letpao Haokip, who along with two other ministers visited two areas in Senapati and Churachandpur districts on March 29 and April 1 this year. The subcommittee interacted with the illegal immigrants, who had crossed the border after the military coup in Myanmar in February, and offered them humanitarian relief and shelters. However, the immigrants refused to leave their settlements and objected to the identification drive conducted by the subcommittee.

The subcommittee took photos, videos and audio recordings of their field visits and submitted their "initial findings" report to the state government on April 24. The report said that they have identified 2,187 illegal immigrants in 41 locations across the state. The report also said that the identification of such a large number of illegal immigrants has caused panic among them and led to violence between them and the local Kuki tribes.

Why are the Kukis unhappy?

The Kuki civil society groups have accused the Manipur government of trying to identify illegal immigrants under the pretext of providing humanitarian assistance. They have alleged that the government only wants to target genuine Indian Kuki tribes, who have been living in the hills of Manipur for centuries and have a history of fighting against the British colonial rule. They have also claimed that they have been providing shelter and support to their fellow Kuki brethren from Myanmar, who are fleeing from persecution by the military junta.

The Kukis have demanded that the government should stop harassing them and respect their rights as indigenous people of Manipur. They have also asked for a dialogue with the government to resolve the issue amicably. They have warned that any attempt to evict them from their ancestral lands will be met with stiff resistance.

What is the government's response?

The Manipur government has defended its report and said that it is based on facts and evidence collected during the field visits. It has said that it is not against any community or tribe, but only wants to identify and deport illegal immigrants who pose a threat to the security and sovereignty of the country. It has also said that it is ready to provide shelter and relief to those who are willing to cooperate with the authorities.

The government has also appealed for peace and harmony among all communities and urged them not to fall prey to rumours or propaganda. It has said that it is committed to protecting the rights and interests of all citizens of Manipur.

What is the border situation?

Manipur shares a 400-kilometer border with Myanmar, most of which is unfenced. The India-Myanmar frontier is an open border with a free movement regime, which permits the tribes residing along the border to travel up to 16 kilometers across the boundary for up to three days without visa restrictions³. This has facilitated trade, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries, but also posed challenges for security and law enforcement.

The border area has been a hotbed of insurgency, drug trafficking and smuggling for decades. Several rebel groups from India's Northeast have been operating from bases in Myanmar, often with the support of local ethnic armed organizations. These groups have carried out attacks on Indian security forces and civilians from time to time, using the porous border as an escape route.

The recent military coup in Myanmar has further complicated the situation, as thousands of people have fled the violence and sought refuge in India. Many of them belong to the Chin community, which has close ties with the Mizos and Kukis in India. Some of them are also members of pro-democracy groups or civil society organizations that have been resisting the junta's rule.

The influx of refugees has raised humanitarian and security concerns for India, which has been trying to balance its relations with Myanmar and its obligations under international law. India has not officially recognized the coup or condemned the crackdown on protesters, but has also not deported the refugees who have crossed over. India has also maintained communication with both the junta and the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration formed by ousted lawmakers and activists.

What are the possible solutions?

The Manipur government has proposed to fence the border with Myanmar to prevent illegal immigration and cross-border crimes. It has said that it has received funds from the central government for this purpose, but has faced difficulties in implementing it due to land disputes and opposition from local groups. Only 40 kilometers of the 398-kilometer border have been fenced so far.

The government has also announced plans to set up 34 police stations along the border to enhance security and surveillance. It has also said that it will construct a temporary shelter home in Moreh, a border town, to accommodate 5,000 refugees from Myanmar. It has assured that it will provide all humanitarian assistance and medical care to those who are willing to cooperate with the authorities.

However, these measures may not be enough to address the complex and long-standing issues that plague the border region. There is a need for a comprehensive and holistic approach that involves dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders, including the central and state governments, civil society groups, tribal leaders, local communities and international agencies. There is also a need for a coordinated and consistent policy on Myanmar that takes into account India's strategic interests, democratic values and humanitarian obligations.

Conclusion

The border crisis between India and Myanmar is a complex and multifaceted problem that requires urgent attention and action. The situation in Myanmar is deteriorating by the day, as the military junta continues to suppress the pro-democracy movement with brutal force. The people of Myanmar are suffering from human rights violations, economic hardship and humanitarian crisis. The spill-over effects of the coup have also affected India's Northeast, especially Manipur, where thousands of refugees have crossed over seeking safety and shelter.

India faces a dilemma in dealing with the Myanmar issue, as it has to balance its strategic, economic and security interests with its democratic values and humanitarian obligations. India has a long-standing relationship with Myanmar, which is a key partner in its Act East policy and a gateway to Southeast Asia. India also shares ethnic, cultural and religious ties with many communities in Myanmar, especially in the border areas. However, India also has a responsibility to uphold democracy and human rights, and to support the aspirations of the people of Myanmar for a peaceful and democratic transition.

India needs to adopt a proactive and pragmatic approach that can address the immediate and long-term challenges posed by the border crisis. India needs to engage with all parties in Myanmar, including the junta, the NUG, the ethnic armed organizations and the civil society groups, to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation. India also needs to work with other regional and international actors, such as ASEAN, the UN and the Quad, to exert pressure on the junta to stop the violence and restore democracy. India also needs to strengthen its border management and security mechanisms, while providing humanitarian assistance and protection to the refugees who have crossed over. India also needs to resolve the land disputes and grievances of the local tribes who live along the border, and respect their rights and interests.

The border crisis between India and Myanmar is not only a bilateral issue, but also a regional and global one. It has implications for peace, stability and development in South and Southeast Asia. It also tests India's role and credibility as a democratic leader and a responsible power. India has an opportunity and an obligation to play a constructive and positive role in resolving the crisis, and to uphold its values and interests in the region.

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(2) NDTV on Twitter: ""Illegal Myanmarese Set Up Villages, Refused Shelters .... https://twitter.com/ndtv/status/1671365661895827457.
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