Amidst the ongoing problems that are arising in wake of the influx of thousands of refugees from Mynamar in the northeastern states, Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, the Eastern Army Commander, assured that common villagers seeking refuge are not being stopped during this challenging period
Lt. Gen Kalita, who was in Guwahati on November 21 while conversing with media people, said, “Any instability in our neighbourhood is not in our interest; it influences us also as we share a typical boundary. The problem of Indo-Myanmar gets accentuated by difficult geography and terrain.”
Lt Gen Kalita, said, “As people share ethnicity in that region, the Indo-Myanmar border is a very porous border including the Free Movement regime (FMR). So It becomes difficult to identify people from our nation and others. Whenever fighting intensifies between the Myanmar army and pro-democracy forces, areas close to border people cross over, some go back and some stay back.”
The Eastern Army commander added, “There are a few restricted quantities of individuals who looked for cover in Manipur and bigger numbers crossed over to Mizoram. There is a process that is followed in consultation with the State government and whenever they want to go back they are sent back, but the directions are very clear that no armed cadres are allowed to enter Indian territory. Identify all these people, record biometric, establish camps, keep them localised. Records are kept, ensuring that they are not part of any rebel group”. But the reason for worry is about illicit transportation of drugs and other contraband. Lt. Gen Kalita further added that “There has been recovery of a lot of drugs and narcotics from people who are coming to take shelter in Indian territory, so we are keeping a very close eye on drug peddlers”.
He also said that “Even when Myanmar army personnel are seeking refuge, the Indian authorities allow them only after taking away their weapons. A proper identification has been done and then they are taken to the Moreh border and handed over to Myanmar authorities. Common villagers seeking refuge due to conflict are not stopped.”
The Army commander also said that recently, Indo-Myanmar border fencing work has started. Work is in progress in a phased manner and 1600 kilometres of it will be covered.
Around 29 Myanmar soldiers who had fled to Mizoram’s Champhai district after their camp at Tuibual in Chin State was captured by the civilian armed forces were repatriated on November 19. A total of 74 Myanmar military personnel had fled to Mizoram since November 13, following the escalating gun battle between the Army and the People’s Defence Force (PDF). On November 14, around 39 of them were sent back to Myanmar.
Already, 32,000 people, including women and children, from Myanmar have taken shelter in the northeastern states. A majority of the refugees live in relief camps and government buildings, while many others are accommodated by their relatives, and a large number of Myanmarese have been staying in rented houses.
Eastern Mizoram’s six districts—Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial, and Saitual—share a 510-km-long unfenced and mountainous border with Myanmar Chin state. The Assam Rifles, which guard the unfenced 1,643-km India-Myanmar border has stepped up its vigil along the frontier not only in Mizoram but also in Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.