The Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, known for his War on Drug campaign, is all set for another war to efface the menace of the illegal influx in the Northeastern state of India.
Exclusively speaking to this Correspondent, the Chief Minister said that the indigenous people of the state have been reduced to the status of second-class citizens after the “foreigner Kuki’ immigrants have taken control of the social, political and economic affairs of the native tribal people of the state.
The leaders of two armed underground groups ZRA (Zomi Revolutionary Army) and KNO (Kuki National Organization) which are under Suspension of Operation are not indigenous people of the state; they are foreigners. ZRO Chief is a former Member of Parliament from the National League of Democracy, Myanmar while the KNO Chief is a native of Akan village, Phek District of Nagaland, alleged the Chief Minister while expressing his apprehension of having an organised syndicate of illegal migrants to control over the politics, administration, economy of the indigenous tribes like Thadou of Manipur.
The presence of foreign militants like ZRA and KNO on the soil of Manipur creates a haven for illegal Kuki migrants from neighbouring Myanmar. Since the Myanmar Kuki are also from the Chin-Kuki-Mizo community, it’s difficult to identify them once they have entered Manipur. With all the muscle power and black money from drug trafficking, they have started discriminating against Thadou and other native tribes. This led to social disparity and enmity among the community, the Chief Minister observed.
Along the border, the number of Kuki villages has increased manyfold. Districts like Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and Chandel have become their heaven. In 1969, there were 179 villages in Kangpokpi district, but with the increased number of undocumented migrants, the villages in the Thadou-speaking district have shot up to 534 in 2021.
In Churachandpur district, the number of villages has increased from 216 in 1969 to 544 in 2021. While, the number of villages in Tengnoupal district, which shares a boundary with the Sagaing Region of Myanmar, has increased from 232 in 1969 to 446 in 2021.
District Name Villages in 1969 Villages in 2021 Increase:
After the Naga-Kuki conflict (1992- 1997), many Kuki armed groups emerged to counter the infamous ethnic cleansing war. Later, they signed a tri-partied Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the Central and State governments in 2005. Such militant organisations formed by foreigner Kuki claimed their legitimacy by signing SoO agreement. The role of such militant organisations in organised crimes, drug trafficking and facilitating illegal immigration is a piece of common knowledge, said the Chief Minister, who is also the in-charge of the Home Department.
Alarmingly, the Khengjang village (Reserve Forest area) in Churachandpur district had no houses till 2006. But in the year 2021, the number of households in the area had already crossed 1200. The newly built homes are the testimony of the influx.
“No need of doing politics; if we could not protect our people from dying”, said the Chief Minister while, highlighting the threat imposed by illegal migrants.
The State Government has constituted the Manipur State Population Commission, and house-to-house identification of illegal migrants will start soon. A high-powered Cabinet Sub-Committee with three Ministers was appointed to monitor undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh. Even the government will initiate biometric-based identification of immigrants fleeing from conflict-torn Myanmar.
Besides cancelling the erstwhile Free Movement Regime (FMR) that allowed to travel 16 kilometres across the border on either side without any visa requirements, the government has also resolved the long-standing border dispute and geared up the process for building robust border fencing.
After the approval of the Central government to establish 34 police stations along the Indo-Myanmar border, the state would enable to control illegal immigrants and unlawful activities along the border areas.
Demand for NRC:
The people were not so much aware of the threat posed by immigrants Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2017. The recent uprising and demand for the identification of migrants is a collective call from the native people to insulate themself from the ever-increasing number of Myanmarese Kuki and other illegal influx. The state government has appraised the Central Government about the need to implement NRC Biren, who is optimistic about receiving a positive nod from the Central government to implement NRC in Manipur, informed during the interview.