AIZWAL: Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma on Saturday said his government does not have the authority to stop the Centre from fencing the India-Myanmar border and scrapping the Free Movement Regime (FMR), but maintained that he was opposed to it.
Addressing a press conference hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah made the announcement in Guwahati, he said the border with Myanmar in Mizoram was “imposed” by the British, and the Mizo people living on the two sides of it do not accept it.
“If the Centre goes ahead with its plan to fence the India-Myanmar border and scrap the FMR, we have no authority and we cannot stop it,” he said.
Lalduhoma said that his government and different organisations in the state were opposed to the fencing of the border and scrapping of the FMR as Mizos share ethnic ties with the people of the Chin community in Myanmar.
He said that Mizos living in different parts of the world “dream of reunification”, and fencing the present border will amount to approval of the boundary “imposed” by the British.
The chief minister said that he had discussed the matter with PM Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister during his visit to Delhi recently, and they did not oppose his appeal regarding it.
The Free Movement Regime allows people living on both sides of the border to travel 16 km into each other’s territory without a visa.
He said the idea of scraping the FMR mainly stemmed from cross-border trafficking, and that he also believes that the smuggling of drugs and other contrabands has increased due to it.
Shah, while addressing a programme in Guwahati, said the Centre will end the free movement of people at the India-Myanmar border, and fence it completely so that it can be protected like the country’s boundary with Bangladesh.
“The Narendra Modi government has decided that the India-Myanmar border, which is open, will be protected by barbed fencing. The entire border will have barbed fencing like what we have at the India-Bangladesh border,” he said.
“The Indian government is rethinking the free movement agreement with Myanmar. Now, the Government of India is going to stop this facility,” he added.
More than 31,000 people from Myanmar, mostly from the Chin state, have taken refuge in Mizoram following the military coup in the neighbouring country in February 2021.
Four Indian states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, share a 1,643-km-long border with Myanmar. Mizoram has a border of 510 km with Myanmar.
Mizoram’s largest civil society organisation Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) and the state’s apex students’ body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) have also voiced their opposition to the Centre’s decision.