Manipur: Kuki body 'dismayed' by end to free movement agreement with Myanmar

An apex body of the Kuki tribes expressed concern over the Centre’s “abrupt” decision to stop free movement on the India–Myanmar border by fencing it completely

Representative image: Refugees from Myanmar find shelter with extended family and tribal kinsfolk on the Indian side of the border; many of the injured are treated and children go to school here in India (photo: National Herald archives)
Representative image: Refugees from Myanmar find shelter with extended family and tribal kinsfolk on the Indian side of the border; many of the injured are treated and children go to school here in India (photo: National Herald archives)
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PTI

The Kuki Inpi Manipur, an apex body of the Kuki tribes in the state, have said in a statement that the Union government's recent decision of fencing the border between India and Myanmar will not address some of the “complex challenges” in the region.

Union home minister Amit Shah had announced on Saturday, 20 January, said the central government has decided that the India–Myanmar border, which is currently open, will be protected now.

“The entire border will have barbed fencing like what we have at the India–Bangladesh border. The Indian government is rethinking the free movement agreement with Myanmar. Now, the Government of India is going to stop this facility," he said on his visit to Assam’s Guwahati.

The Kuki-Zo peoples of Manipur and the Mizos of neighbouring Mizoram, also known as the Kuki-Chin tribes across the border, share a common ethnicity and culture. Many, including those from Mizoram, think of those on either side of the border as their own extended tribal family and have been keen to succour refugees from the recent outbreak of junta violence in Myanmar.

Indeed, the newly elected chief minister of Mizoram, Lalduhoma, recently met the prime minister and claimed to have gained his support and that of external affairs minister S Jaishankar on supporting the 1,400-plus Kuki-Chin refugees.

The statement by the Kuki Inpi Manipur said it is 'profoundly dismayed by the abrupt decision to implement border fencing along the India–Myanmar border, coupled with the move for the cancellation of Free Movement Regime (FMR). The unforeseen development has prompted a profound sense of concern within the Kuki Zo community.'

The organisation also called on the Centre to 'reassess this course of action', addining that “It is crucial to recognise that the border fencing will not address the complex challenges”.

The FMR allows people living on both sides of the border to travel up to 16 km into each other's territory without a visa. Four Indian states—Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram—share the 1,643 km border with Myanmar.

Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh had earlier spoken in favour of the border fencing and cancellation of FMR.

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