Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh advocates border fencing, revoking of Free Movement Regime

Manipur CM N Biren Singh advocates for the scrapping of the Free Movement Regime and the fencing of the Myanmar border to address security issues and safeguard the interests of indigenous Manipuri people.

Livemint
Updated8 Jan 2024, 02:28 PM IST
File image of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh addressing a press conference
File image of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh addressing a press conference(PTI)

Manipur's Chief Minister N Biren Singh, has raised concerns about the neglect of the northeastern state by previous union governments, citing the 390-km border with Myanmar as a focal point, NDTV reported. He also partly attributed the ethnic violence between the Metei and Kuki-Zo tribes in May 2023, which resulted in the loss of 175 lives, to this neglect.

Speaking to NDTV, Singh said long-time disregard for the border between India and Myanmar led to adverse consequences. He acknowledged shared cultural ties between the communities on both sides but added that earlier interventions could have prevented the existing challenges. The CM also expressed disappointment at the lack of security at the border, emphasising the inability of existing forces to simultaneously manage counter-insurgency and border protection.

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"See... whatever is happening in Manipur... I am not blaming other central governments but from 1947-49 (when the state merged with India)... it is a 390-km border (with Myanmar) and communities on this side and that are the same tribe. They speak the same language... have the same culture. At that time, if there had been fencing and a pass system, there would not have been problems today. But the centre at that time left us alone. There is (still) no security at the border. There are Assam Rifles... but they can't handle both counter-insurgency and guard the border. And now we have (militants) camped inside our borders," he said.

Demands for Change

Advocating for change, Singh reiterated his calls from September to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) and fence the Myanmar border. He emphasised instances of individuals exploiting the porous border and urged for stricter controls to safeguard indigenous Manipuri people's interests. The CM attributed the current situation to the historical negligence of the region by past governments, highlighting the attention the northeast received only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

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"No one thinks about the indigenous people of Manipur. Only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power was attention paid to the northeast... earlier governments, I don't want to mention names, they left us alone. So what is happening now is because of that. So, border fencing is a must and free movement must be cancelled. Yes, of course, please come and visit... but there is an international norm for visiting foreign countries," he said.

Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh echoed the urgency of fencing the border and calling it a "must".

A senior government official revealed plans to phase out the FMR and complete border fencing within five years, affirming the government's commitment to this strategy.

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Mixed Reactions

While Singh has been resolute in his stance, not all regional leaders share his viewpoint. Lalduhoma, the newly elected Chief Minister of Mizoram, conveyed opposition to border fencing during discussions with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, as reported by the Deccan Herald.

At present, only a fraction of Manipur's 390 km border with Myanmar has been fenced -- 10 km. And reports indicated an influx of around 700 illegal immigrants in July 2023, raising calls for security issues.

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First Published:8 Jan 2024, 02:28 PM IST
HomeNewsIndiaManipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh advocates border fencing, revoking of Free Movement Regime

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