Fence rips through Manipur villages

Published on July 29, 2013

By Khelen Thokchom

Indo-Myanmar border residents may end up on wrong side of barbed wire

Imphal: K. Nungkho, a 30-year-old woodcutter and a resident of a village near the Indo-Myanmar border, is now faced with a predicament which residents of many Assam villages along the India-Bangladesh border are quite familiar with.

An under-construction fence along the international border is about to split his village Govajang in Manipur’s Chandel district into two, with his home falling on the wrong side of the fence

Assam Rifles is constructing the barbed wire fence alongside a 10km stretch between pillars no. 79 and 81 of the Indo-Myanmar border to prevent cross-border smuggling of illegal items and arms and movement of militants. The fence has reached the village but is yet to pass through it. Once it does, Govajang will be divided.

The Nungkho family, however, is not alone. Govajang has a population of more than 100 and of the 24 houses only 13 would be left inside the fence once it runs through the village.

“The village church will fall beyond the fence. So will two-thirds of the village area. The fence will divide more than 10 villages beyond Govajang,” village chief Thangkhopao Kipgen said.

Kuki Students Organisation, Kuki Chiefs Association, Hill Tribal Council, Rural Peoples Development Federation and Information Centre for Hill Areas of Manipur and several citizens’ organisations inspected the fencing work yesterday and objected to the manner in which the fence was being constructed.

“We do not have any objection to the border being fenced. But the fencing should be carried out along the traditional border. We will not remain silent if the construction of the fence continues along the current line,” Kuki Students Organisation president H. Thongkhongam Mate said.

The border settlers said the actual border was along the foothills, while the fence was being constructed further up the hill. They said the distance between the original border and line along which Assam Rifles was constructing the fence was around 500 metres.

It is being alleged that the fence will also lead to snapping of cultural and economic relations between people residing on both sides of the fence. “The fence will also divide the villagers, as it would be very difficult for them to meet for cultural and other village activities,” T.H. Thomsing, ex-president of Rural Peoples Development Federation, said.

“We have been protecting the boundary for years now. We know better than anyone where the real border is. Neither the Manipur government nor the Centre informed to us in advance about the fence. Are we not citizens of India?” Govajang chief Kipgen asked.

Brozendra Ningomba, spokesperson for Information Centre for Hill Areas of Manipur, demanded construction of the fence after a joint survey by Indian and Myanmarese authorities.

Source: The Telegraph – July 29, 2013

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