TODAY -

Dissenters not to go down without a fight
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 16, 2024 -



DESPITE shared history and common struggle for existence, the north-eastern part of Indian subcontinent comprising eight states, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, is a region filled with contradictions.

Covering an area of only 2.62 lakh sq. km, which accounts for just 7.9 per cent of total geographical area of the country, northeast India faces many challenges not only from outside but also within, that are hard to overcome, if not impossible.

Again, more than the challenges posed from outside, it is the clash of interest and ideological differences among the different groups of people living in the region that are even harder to reconcile.

This inherent characteristic nature of the region and its people could not have been more pronounced than now in the groupism that has come to the fore following the announcement made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah about the decision of Government of India to put up fencing along the entire stretch of the porous 1,643 km long international border that the region shares with the neighbouring country Myanmar and to do away with the decades-old Free Movement Regime (FMR) that allows people settling on both sides of the border to travel up to 16 km inside each other's territory without a visa and stay for up to two weeks per visit.

Even though the Chief Ministers of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have welcomed the decision aimed at strengthening the internal security of the country and maintaining the demographic structure of the vulnerable north-eastern states, their Nagaland and Mizoram counterparts have made their objection to the border fencing and scrapping of FRM known to all as they fear these restrictive measures would snap the familial ties and affect social interaction among people belonging to same lineage, speaking same the language and following the same customs and traditions but have been divided by artificially created boundaries.

Apart from the contrasting viewpoints held by the region's Chief Ministers, civil society organisations (CSOs) in the north-eastern states that share borders with Myanmar have also aired their respective positions to the announcement of fencing the border and scrapping Free Movement Regime (FMR).

Leaving aside the obvious standpoint of civil society organisations in Manipur, particularly those belonging to the Meetei and Kuki-Chin communities, which are currently in a face-off following the outbreak of ethnic clashes since May 3 last year, it is interesting to note that the Nagaland-based influential student body, the Naga Students' Federation (NSF) has already despatched an appeal to the United Nations seeking immediate intervention against what it describes as "further fragmentation of Naga homeland by occupational forces" while in Mizoram, NCO Coordination Committee (NOCCC), which is a conglomerate of various NGOs including Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), Mizo Students' Union (MSU), Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), MHIP (Mizo women's front) and MUP (Mizo elders' association), etc., is all set for taking out a mass protest rally in Aizawl on February 21 to register their objection to fencing the Indo-Myanmar border and terminating the Free Movement Regime (FMR).

The decision to organise protest rally has come after the NOCCC submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday, where it stated, "Being one of the signatories of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), 2007, we believe that our country would have taken measures to assert the rights of indigenous peoples who are divided by international border, as stated in Article 36 of UNDRIP."

What is notable in the objection raised by the Young Turks is that unlike their elders they don't need to hide behind the rhetoric of familial ties anymore. This shows they will not go down that easily without a fight.

Another point to be noted, surely.



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