The escalating trend of undocumented Myanmarese crossing the international border and taking refuge on Indian soil is becoming a subject of national concern. In multi-ethnicity states like Manipur and Mizoram, the large influx from the neighbouring country has already created a chasm in the social and political milieu.
The porous border and implementation of the Free Movement Regime that allows tribal communities residing along the Indo-Myanmar border to travel across the border without any visa up to 16 KM aggravate the situation.
The Manipur Government have taken steps to control the flux. Citing reports of interfering in social and political affairs by foreign-based armed militant groups, the State Cabinet decided to withdraw the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the Kuki National Army (KNA) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA).
“After detail deliberation, Cabinet decided to withdraw the State Government from tri-partite talks/ SoO agreements with 2 hill-based insurgent groups, namely the Kuki National Army (KNA) and the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) whose leaders hail from outside the state,” reads a press communique of the State Cabinet held on March 10, 2023.
In a major crackdown, Manipur police detected 23 Myanmar nationals, including women and children from Kawnpui village under Lamka Tehsil, Churachandpur district, on April 6.
According to sources, Churachandpur district police conducted a special drive led by two Additional Superintendent of Police at Kawnpui at around 11 am on receiving specific information about the presence of some illegal migrants in the area and the police team apprehended the illegal Myanmar nationals, who have been illegally staying at the area for the last few days.
The apprehended illegal migrants have been shifted temporarily to Sadbhavna Mantap, Khominthang, New Lamka. In the Churachandpur district, only around 130 undocumented Myanmar nationals were detained in a detention centre. Others are detained at Foreigner Detention Center at Sajiwa Jail, Khabeisoi, in Imphal East district. Besides, the state government is establishing detention/designated centres at Singhat, Churachandpur district.
Due to the prevailing political unrest in Myanmar, many have crossed international boundaries to take refuge in other countries, including India. According to United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR), the Magway and Sagaing regions of Myanmar are the most volatile as bombings, attacks, arsons and landmine incidents are taken place regularly. This led to mass displacement in the affected area.
As per UNHCR’s report of March 2023 ‘Myanmar Emergency Update”, 1,704,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar since 2021, and 41,400 of them are in India. Mizoram received 39,200, while 7,350 crossed the international border and are living in Manipur. In February, around 500 people from Myanmar arrived in different parts of India. Due to the escalating conflict in the country, more Myanmar nationals are expecting to arrive on Indian soil via Mizoram and Manipur states.
Myanmar and India share 1643 KM of the international border. Despite Union and State Governments’ efforts, it remains a herculean task to seal the Indo-Myanmar border with the ongoing construction of border fencing to curtail the issue of illegal migrants and the menace of illicit drug trafficking.
Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh State of India share a border with Myanmar. Due to the porous border fencing, the border areas of India’s four states are the heaven of illegal migrants, human trafficking, transit point of illicit drugs and population imbalance.
The Central government has approved the establishment of 34 new police stations along the Indo-Myanmar border, and the Manipur government has also set up new police stations. Besides, the Manipur Government has also constituted a Cabinet Sub-Committee of three Ministers to take stoke of the situation.
Stressing the need to identify illegal migrants who have been staying in Churachandpur, Tengnoupal and Chandel districts of Manipur, Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh informed during an exclusive interview with this reporter that the State would launch house to house survey to identify illegal migrants.
Earlier, a team of Organizer Weekly visited the Indo-Myanmar border Moreh town in Tengnoupal district last year.
The team documented the undocumented Myanmar nationals taking shelter at the border town in an exclusive report, ‘Attempt to make Northeast a hotspot of illegal Myanmarese migrants’. The report also highlighted the increasing number of migrant businessmen settling at Moreh following the February 2021 military crackdown in the land of Golden Pagoda.