Notwithstanding the strident public outcry and political storm, including an all-political parties meeting at the office of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on Thursday, the controversial construction of the border fence in some portions of the 396 km long Manipur-Myanmar border continued. The Union government has made it known in no uncertain terms that since it’s a question of checking infiltration of militants across the border, the construction works will continue.
The Border Roads Organisation is constructing the fence under the supervision of Assam Rifles which had replaced Border Security Force.
With increasing incidents of militants sneaking into Manipur from across the border, the government had started construction of the 10 km long fence at Moreh, the border town.
But the works had to be suspended due to some objections from Myanmar. Later, the works were resumed by constructing the fence deep inside Manipur. Political parties and civil organisations say that the fence will pass through 18 villages in three border districts. In case of Choro Khunnou in Ukhrul district it will go entirely to Myanmar.
One army officer had came along with labourers to Hollenphai village, 3 km away from the police station at Moreh. He had ordered cutting down trees in the village ostensibly to construct an army camp. Police and civil officials told him that it was Manipur's territory. But the army officer replied saying that as per the British maps the place falls within Myanmar.
Prem Nagar is a few metres from the police station at Moreh. Some years back Tamil Sangam Moreh had constructed a Hindu temple there said to be the second largest in the entire North Eastern region. Once the border fence is completed Prem Nagar and the temple shall fall within Myanmar.
There had been traditional trade among the tribals on either side of the international border based mostly on barter system. However a few thousands of traders of Indian extraction fled the erstwhile Burma in 1960s. Most of them had converged at Moreh which was a nondescript
tribal village whose people were remembered only on the eve of the elections. Within a few years Moreh was transmogrified to an international market. Despite sustained objections and political manipulations the centre legalised the border trade on May 12, 1995.
In the wake of the public outcry the Manipur government had set up a committee to look into the controversy on border fence. However the committee said that what is being constructed is security wall and not border fence. The Manipur government had plans to send a Ministerial team to the border areas once the committee's report is received. But the Union government is reported to have asked the state government not to send the Ministerial team since this provocation will strain the friendly relations between the two countries.