TODAY -

Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border : T.R Zeliang speech
- February 29, 2024 : Government of Nagaland -

*



SPEECH OF SH. T.R ZELIANG, HON’BLE DY. CHIEF MINISTER (P&T,NH) ON MATTER PERTAINING TO FENCING OF INDO-MYANMAR BORDER DISCUSSED ON FEBRUARY 29, 2024 UNDER RULE 50 DURING THE 4TH SESSION OF THE 14TH NLA.

1. Speaker Sir, I rise to participate in this crucial discussion on matter pertaining to ‘Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border’ which has come up for discussion in this august House under Rule-50. I thank my friend and colleague, Hon’ble MLA, Sh. Kuzholuzo Neinu for bringing the subject to the attention of this house.

2. Speaker Sir, as we have witnessed recently, this issue has become a hot topic of discussion and, particularly in our home State, we have observed that this plan of the Government of India to fence the Indo-Myanmar border is being staunchly opposed by majority of our people. There have been several condemnations in Print and Social Media raised by individuals and organisations and, I genuinely feel, it is befitting of this House to take up this urgent matter of public importance for discussion during this 4th Session of the 14th NLA.

3. Our Naga ancestors lived as free people without any artificial borders until the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826 which established the current India-Myanmar boundary and eventually, today the Naga family is divided and lives in two different Countries - India and Myanmar. This Treaty of Yandabo was signed by General Sir Archibald Campbell on behalf of the British and Governor of Legaing Maha Min Hla Kyaw Htin on behalf of the Burmese and ended the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) but separated communities with shared ethnicity and culture, including the Nagas as well as the Kuki-Chin-Mizo communities without their consent. In particular, the Naga people were arbitrarily divided by an imaginary boundary line demarcated between the two countries, India and Myanmar, and this has divided the same asthenic people without their consent. This was the handy work of the Britishers and both the Countries, Myanmar and India, inherited the British policy of divide and rule.

4. As for the Nagas, we must understand that the land of the Naga people within Indian States like Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal etc. come to about 50,000 Sq. Km. whereas the area of Burma-Naga consists about 90,000 Sq. Km. - half of the Naga family resides in Myanmar and the other half in India. All the border areas along Indo-Myanmar are neglected by both Countries and remain backward and landlocked. As a result, the areas became a safe sanctuary for all kind of unwanted antisocial elements which continue to exist in those areas till date. My humble suggestion is for both the Country’s top political leaders to work out strategies to transform those land-lock areas along the border by improving connectivity between the two Countries, strengthening security posts and administration system in sensitive pockets instead of constructing border fencing. I had mentioned this issue in the Plenary Session of the North eastern Council (NEC) in 2016 urging Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Sh. Narendra Modiji, who was the Chief Guest then, to take into consideration the prevailing situation in this landlocked area at the border.

5. Let me cite one example - when Nagaland State was created in 1963 from undivided Assam, the consent of the Naga people living in present-day Arunachal, Manipur or Assam was not considered. Whereas, in 1972, when the present-day Meghalaya State was created, the Garo people were asked to choose whether they wanted to remain with Assam or be part of the new Meghalaya State. The Garos decided to be with the newly created State of Meghalaya and accordingly they were placed under Meghalaya and whereas, this fundamental right was not applied in the case of the Nagas. Having said this, I must express my opposition against any further division of the Naga people by way of constructing border fencings in Naga inhabited areas particularly in present-day Nagaland. It is well-known today that the Naga people were divided by artificial boundary imposed by foreigners without their consent and knowledge. Yesterday, it happened but today the Naga people cannot let it happen again – the bottom-line is, there cannot be any further division of the Nagas by constructing border fencings.

6. Speaker Sir, the State of Nagaland shares 215 Kms of International Border with Myanmar and the agenda behind the division of this border land of the Nagas is precarious and unjustified. The issue of influx of illegal immigrants, like that of the Chins, Rohingyas etc. into India has no similarity with the Naga issue. For instance - the Chin-Kuki-Meitei problem cannot be equated with the Naga situation because the Naga people have been living together peacefully as a family unlike the case of Chin-Kuki-Meitei in Manipur or in other parts of India. The contention of Manipur cannot be compared with Nagaland context because there exist social harmony on both side of the border in our case since we belong to the same ethnic group and whereas, in Manipur’s context, the demand is for fencing the international border due to influx of illegal immigrants. In some parts of North-East India, there have also been concerns about the preservation of indigenous culture and traditions in border areas, potentially threatened by increased migration and also deforestation and illegal resource extraction along the border which have been attributed to unregulated cross-border movement. Although, this may be prevailing in some States, the same is not the case with the Naga people or with Nagaland.

7. Speaker Sir, as I remember, this house has adopted resolution 6 times for the Nagas to be integrated under one administrative unit. In particular, during my time as Chief Minister back in 2017 when Myanmar decided to fence the border, I remember that this august House had adopted a resolution appealing the Central Government against the exercise to fence the border. I had also taken up this matter with the then Home Minister, Sh. Rajnath Singh to stop border-fencing in Naga Areas as it would not only affect free movement of Naga people but also destroy traditional land-holding system prevailing in our State. Subsequently, the then Union Home Minister wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the matter with Myanmar and convey to the Government of Myanmar not to proceed with the border fencing on its side.

8. Let us take the case of Noklak District and its traditional land-holding system: the District of Noklak stands to lose 3500 acres of land which the local populace have been cultivating for generations if boundary-fencing is constructed. The local communities living on both sides of the border in this area have very close cultural and social affinity and there are instances where they hold land on both sides of the border. Also in spite of the open and unguarded border, there is practically no migration of the native Nagas across the international border. This is basically because of the strong attachment the Nagas have for their ancestral land and its land-holding system.

9. Speaker Sir, in my understanding, the Act East policy of the Government of India under Hon’ble Prime Minister, Sh. Narendra Modiji which intends to improve trade and communications across the Indo-Myanmar border would be defeated if boundary fencing is given the go-ahead. Furthermore, in my opinion, the Free Movement Regime (FMR) which aims to facilitate local border trade, improve access to education and healthcare for border residents, and strengthen diplomatic ties; must neither be scrapped nor modified without taking the grassroot populace into confidence. As we know, under FMR, cross-border movement is permitted up to 16 Kms without a visa but the idea of fencing the Indo-Myanmar Border and to scrap this prevailing system will antagonise the Naga people because for the Naga people; the desire to bond and connect, to prosper and to live together as one people is a legitimate right.

10.On this line, Speaker Sir, I take this opportunity to call upon the Government of India to develop a comprehensive and balanced approach for border management because any unilateral decision to impose its decision to divide the Naga people by constructing border fencings may have negative impact rather than moving forward. This is a serious issue for the Naga people and this august House may pass a resolution of opposition and convey to the Government of India the feeling of our people who are vehemently opposing the construction of border-fencing along the Indo-Myanmar boundary bordering Nagaland.

11.In conclusion, I suggest that like-minded State Governments in North-East India may collectively approach the Government of India for reconsideration of its decision to abrogate FMR. Thank u for the time.

Issues by:
Office of the Dy.CM (P&T, NH)
Government of Nagaland.


* This info was provided by Office of the Dy. CM (P&T, NH) who can be contacted at winginformationpublicity(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 01 March 2024 .



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