TODAY -

Behind and beyond the rhetoric
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 10, 2024 -



TWO days after announcing the decision to construct fence along the entire 1,643-kilometre-long border that India shares with Myanmar, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday (February 8) officially made it clear to all the intent of government of India to do away with the agreement of Free Movement Regime (FMR) that allows people residing on either side of the international border to venture 16 km into each other's territory without visa and stay up to two weeks per visit, just like in the earlier announcement of "the Modi Government's commitment to build impenetrable borders," the Union Home Minister made a lengthy post on his X handle this time as well to essentially convey the message that the government of India has decided to scrap the FMR along the border with Myanmar to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India's northeastern states.

In his post, the Union Home Minister said, "It is Prime Minister Shri Narendra Ji's resolve to secure our borders.

MHA has decided that the FMR between India and Myanmar be scrapped to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India's Northeastern states bordering Myanmar.

Since the Ministry of External Affairs is currently in the process of scrapping it, MHA has recommended the immediate suspension of FMR".

When the decision to fence the 1,643-kilometre-long porous borderthat India shares with Myanmar was announced two days back, one question many people had in their mind was why the Union Home Minister did not mention anything about scrapping the FMR.

This question has stemmed from the fact that construction of fence along the porous Indo-Myanmar border would automatically entail putting an end to the FMR agreement.

So, taking two days apart in announcing the decisions of constructing border fencing and scrapping of FMR, which could have been done in one go looks more like a diplomatic approach in the light of opposition from some quarters to the efforts being made to secure the borders of the country from the ever-increasing security threats.

Talking of opposition to border fencing and scrapping of FMR, one needs to understand that it is not just the Kuki-Chins and the Nagas who have familial ties on both sides of Indo-Myanmar border.

There is a sizable population of Meiteis/Meeteis living in different parts of Myanmar as well, but they have never made it an issue regardless of which side of the border they have settled and made homes, keeping in mind the larger issues at stake if concert measures were not taken up to stop the influx of people and other illegal cross-border activities like smuggling of drugs and arms, etc., while there is still time.

Whenever the Kuki-Chins and the Nagas raised objection to border fencing, they always harped on the inevitable fact that building fences will divide their own people who are living in India and Myanmar and also deprive them of all connection and cooperation between them.

They also argued that the international boundary between India and Myanmar had been arbitrarily created and imposed by the British colonial rulers without the consent of the people who matter.

But this contestation is not going to hold water any more.

Of course, the changes to be brought on by the border fencing and scrapping of FMR would definitely affect the social interaction among people of same communities speaking the same languages and sharing the same customs but have been divided by artificially created boundaries.

Nonetheless, how the continued existence of unfenced border and facilitation of free movement have been exploited by one and all is a reality none could afford to ignore today, unless they have something to hide behind their rhetoric of familial ties.

This is what makes the Mizos in Mizoram different from the Kuki-Chins and Nagas in Manipur or elsewhere in raising objection to border fencing.

Mizos do not have to hide behind such rhetoric and their Chief Minister Lalduhoma has the balls to justify the opposition by saying it is against the "dream of (Mizos) becoming a nation under one administration" directly to none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.



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