'Clarify Why and How': Manipur Govt to Assam Rifles on 718 Myanmar Nationals Who Entered India

According to the Manipur government, the Myanmar nationals entered Manipur on July 22-23 without proper travel documents. Although India and Myanmar have a free movement regime, it has been suspended due to the ongoing violence in the state.

New Delhi: The Manipur government has asked Assam Rifles, guarding the Indo-Myanmar border, to push back 718 Myanmar nationals who entered India illegally on July 22 and 23.

Taking serious note of the issue, the state’s Home department sought a detailed report from Assam Rifles to “clarify why and how” the Myanmar nationals “were allowed to enter into India in Chandel District without proper travel documents”, the Indian Express reported.

“In connection with similar issues in the past, the state government had clearly informed Assam Rifles, being Border Guarding Force, to take strict action to prevent the entry of Myanmar nationals into Manipur on any ground without valid visa/travel documents as per instruction of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,” a statement from Manipur department said.

On July 23, 28 Sector Assam Rifles had written to the deputy commissioner of Manipur’s Chandel district reporting a “fresh illegal influx” of Myanmar nationals along the Indo-Myanmar border in Chandel. As per Assam Rifles, the 718 Myanmar nationals arrived at six locations in the district over two days (July 22-23) because of ongoing clashes in Khampat in western Myanmar. Among the 718 were 301 children, 208 women, and 209 men. The Assam Rifles, in the letter, had requested the deputy commissioner to send a representative for “joint verification” of the immigrants.

Following the latest influx, the state government has issued instructions to the Assam Rifles to “push back” the Myanmar nationals “immediately”. In a communication to Assam Rifles, Manipur chief secretary, Vineet Joshi, said the government views the influx “very seriously” and that it may have “international ramifications more particularly in view of the ongoing law and order issue”.

Delhi Meitei Forum put out a tweet, sharing a press release from the Manipur Home Department on the issue.

As The Wire reported earlier, several political leaders from Manipur’s Meitei community have accused Myanmarese military groups of supporting violence in Manipur against persons belonging to their community.

The Kuki majority areas of Manipur share a porous border with Myanmar’s Chin state. The Kukis and Mizos share a common ancestry with the Chins of Myanmar and inhabit that contiguous landmass across the international border.

In fact, India and Myanmar have a free movement regime (FMR) in place within 16 kms on both sides of the border. However, this has been temporarily suspended by the Manipur government due to the ongoing violence in the state.

The Meitei groups have been claiming since the violence broke out in the state that even large-scale “illegal immigration” from Myanmar has been playing a part in the ongoing crisis in the state. Even chief minister N. Biren Singh accused Kukis in Churachandpur of illegally sheltering immigrants from Myanmar, which also angered Kukis in the run-up to the violence.

On June 15, Myanmar’s government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), asked Myanmarese citizens, who have been “temporarily sheltering” in India due to the military crackdown in that country, to stay away from local political matters and ethnic-based conflicts.

The NUG government’s advisory to the displaced citizens is significant because it comes at a time when Manipur’s majority Meitei community is claiming involvement of Myanmarese nationals in their ongoing clash with the Kuki community of the state.

According to official estimates, over 40,000 people from Myanmar have been living in Mizoram and Manipur as refugees since the military coup in the neighbouring country in February 2021. The Manipur government has constituted a Population Commission to implement a drive against “illegal immigrants”.

Meanwhile, The Wire can confirm that Assam Rifles has been guarding political refugees of Myanmar at an Aizawl locality in Mizoram, where the state government went against the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directive to push them back.