Myanmar’s border pillars spark fear 

Villagers in Manipur claim that new border pillars with Myanmarese inscription have been erected three kilometres inside the Indian territory

Myanmar’s border  pillars spark fear 

Ninglun Hanghal

There is no incursion, no encroachment and no provocation by Myanmar, claims New Delhi and the state Government. But notwithstanding reassuring statements from chief minister Biren Singh, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and a press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, border villages in Manipur are restive.

Villagers claim that new border pillars with Myanmarese inscription have been erected three kilometres inside the Indian territory. They cite the inspection report of the Deputy Commissioner of the newly created tengnoupal district, who discovered the Border Pillar number 81 inside Indian territory.

Sensing trouble, prohibitory orders were promulgated in Moreh subdivision on Sunday, July 8, for the next six months as a preventive measure as tension mounted following villagers threatening to demolish the pillar and other subsidiary pillars.

Myanmar’s border  pillars spark fear 
Map showing Border Pillar 81

On a two-day visit to the state, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju tried to placate the villagers and claimed that India was not really losing any land.

Chief minister Biren Singh has called for calm and declared that the state government was committed to facilitate an amicable solution of the problem. Nothing, he said, should jeopardise introduction of visa on arrival facility at Moreh(Manipur) and the Imphal(India) –Mandalay( Myanmar) bus service which is expected to start soon.

The External Affairs Ministry issued a press release to deny claims that border pillar nos 81 and 82 were inside India. There is no confusion over the alignment of this stretch of international border, it said. A routine survey was being conducted jointly and the purpose was to let residents on both sides of the border know the exact alignment of the international border.

Civil society members have taken up the cause of the villagers who, they say, are likely to lose their land and access to forests within India.

The unease is also caused by the past incidents when Myanmarese officials and army had intruded into border villages. They had allegedly dismantled a saw mill in Hollenphai border village and carted away the machinery and parts, claiming that the village was part of Myanmar.

In 2013 also disputes between the two sides had brought border fencing to a grinding halt.

India and Myanmar share a 1623 km long border and the Centre has asked the four border states to distribute ‘border passes’ to all residents living within 16 Kms of the border.

Significantly, however, Myanmar has deferred signing an agreement on land border crossing which was approved by New Delhi in January this year. Myanmar has twice deferred signing the agreement in the last seven months.

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