Unperturbed by the rumpus over the erection of the border fence in Manipur, the Manipuri and Myanmarese villagers on either side of the international border continue to maintain their generations-old relations. For a long time, tribal villages of Manipur have been depending on Myanmar for consumer items, medicines, education, and other livelihood needs. In fact, they also prefer kyat, the currency of Myanmar for their purchases since the rupee has no use in these remote mountain villages.

These border villages are cut off from the rest of Manipur with hardly any roads leading to them. Government officials seldom visit these areas– also known to be inhabited by insurgents. There has never been any government official at Molcham, a border tribal village. The much-hyped Public Distribution System in the State has also not reached tribals in these areas.

With the erection of the fence now being proposed in these isolated areas, villagers feel they will be not be able to trade with their neighbours and their children will no longer be able to go to schools in Myanmar.

Echoing their protests, The Joint Committee on Protection of Border Areas formed by several NGOs, and the United Committee Manipur have said that the fence will affect over 15 villages. At least one village in Ukhrul district will go entirely to Myanmar once the fence is completed. However the Union government maintains that there has been no incursion into Indian territory. Erecting the fence is important to check the movement of north-east insurgents who have camped in border areas and in the Western part of Myanmar, the government says. Further, drugs and illegal firearms are routinely smuggled through the unmanned border.

In view of the massive protesst against the controversial fence, the Manipur government had set up a committee to review the situation.

While Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei has promised to look into the issues brought up by the villagers, and has also promised to send a ministerial team to the area once a report is received by the committee, the villagers continue to maintain cordial relations with their neighbours across the border.