NGO in Mizoram holds demonstration against fencing along Myanmar border, scraping of FMR

IANS Photo

Aizawl, February 21 (IANS) The NGO Coordination Committee (NGOCC), a grouping of five major civil society organisations and student bodies in Mizoram, on Wednesday staged demonstration here to protest the Centre's proposal to fence the India-Myanmar border and scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR).

NGOCC Chairman and Young Mizo Association President Lalhmachhuana said that the proposed fencing along the India-Myanmar border would impact the trade and economy between the two countries.

"The FMR for many years facilitated cordial relations between the people living on both sides of the border as the people of either side of the boundaries are the same ethnic groups with similar tradition and culture. It also boosted the Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) government’s ‘Act East’ policy,” he told the media.

Addressing the gathering Lalhmachhuana said that Mizo people are strongly opposed to both the fencing and the scrapping of FMR, which enables people on either side of the border to travel 16 km into each other's territory without a passport and visa.

The NGOCC Chairman observed that the proposed fencing alone would not curb the problems of smuggling of various drugs and arms besides infiltration.

"Despite fencing, smuggling and infiltration through the India-Bangladesh border did not stop," he remarked and urged the Union government to find an alternative wayout to solve the border problem.

Referring to Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s support to both fencing and scrapping the FMR, Lalhmachhuana said they have no problem if the Manipur government agrees to the fencing along its border with Myanmar.

Lone Rajya Sabha member from Mizoram and senior Mizo National Front (MNF) leader K Vanlalvena and several MLAs from the ruling Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and opposition parties, who stepped out of the ongoing budget session of the Assembly during the recess, took part in the protest demonstration.

Vanlalvena, in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, had said that the erstwhile British government after arbitrarily demarcating the international border with Mizoram forcibly settled Mizo people in three countries -- India, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and Burma (now Myanmar).

Some leaders of Myanmar, who took shelter in Mizoram, also attended the protest event.

Earlier, the NGOCC had sent a memorandum to Union Home Minister Amit Shah urging him to reconsider the decision to scrap the FMR and fence the India-Myanmar border.

Chief Minister Lalduhoma, who earlier met Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and opposed both the fencing and the scrapping of FMR.

Lalduhoma, who is also the President of the ruling ZPM, had earlier on a number of occasions stated that his government strongly opposed the proposed fencing of the border and was keen to retain the FMR. After meeting the Union Home Minister for the second time earlier this month, he had expressed optimism that the Centre may not fence the Mizoram portion of the India-Myanmar border.

Four northeastern states - Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh-- share a 1,643-km-long border with Myanmar. The Mizos of Mizoram share ethnic, traditional and cultural ties with the Zo-Chin community of Myanmar.