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Information blackout

Aheli Moitra

If there is an information overload on border activities in the western peripheries of the Indian Union, there is an information blackout on the eastern periphery. As the democratic machinery of the Union was put into play over the last couple of months, the Indo-Myanmar borders were witnessing growing military action.

A joint military action has been underway between the Indian security forces and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) on the international border, eastward from Arunachal Pradesh down to Mizoram, but few journalists from either side of the border can affirm developments on the ground as the operation unfurls. The Indian national media, that has more access to all central wings of the Indian establishment, has taken little interest in the Indo-Myanmar border; when reports have been filed, they have been attributed to unknown sources. Local journalists have neither the capacity nor access to the establishment to file informative reports on such military operations and their fallout.

In the absence of decisive reportage on the matter, one can only guess what is happening by putting together jigsaw pieces of articles appearing in some news websites—a joint military action to curb North East armed groups nestled in the Naga Self Administered Zone (SAZ) of Myanmar has been ongoing since, at least, the start of this year. Amidst this, the Government of Myanmar has arrested some NSCN (K) leaders – those who have maintained a ceasefire with the regional government (Sagaing Division) since 2012 and pushed for peace talks.

There is lesser information still, both in India as well as Myanmar, on the plight of the people who inhabit these border areas. The Naga and the Zomi people whose ancestral lands have had to host the Indo-Myanmar border are possibly facing the worst brunt of any state military action being carried out under total secrecy and information blackout.

The only public source of information on what the Naga people are undergoing currently has been the Eastern Konyak Union (Myanmar). According to the Union, the villages of Hoyat, Throilu and Nyanching are tensed with the Myanmar armed forces “bombing” the area under the Naga SAZ. Fresh reports have now emerged of Naga civilians being used as forced labour to transport ration for the Myanmar Army. The Naga civil society on the Indian side of the border has expressed concern and solidarity with the Naga brethren in Myanmar.

It would be good to remember at such times of war why it is important to protect the lives and liberties of civilians—at the end of the long peace rope is reconciliation and the worse the experience of violence, the more difficult it is for people or polities to reconcile, live together and find peaceful means to address their situation.

If Indo-Myanmar state-based efforts at cross border diplomacy and a peaceful international border is intended for the people and for establishing peace, and perhaps develop the region someday, the shroud of secrecy on the condition of civilians must be removed, peoples’ voices be made public, their lives and rights protected.

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