A team of Ukhrul-based journalists visited villages near the India-Myanmar border in Kamjong district of Manipur on Friday. During their visit, they interacted with local leaders and village elders to take stock of the situation in the area.

KAMJONG Ukhrul Manipur
The media outlets represented by the visiting journalists, including the Imphal Times, the Ukhrul Times, and The Sangai Express, reported heavy militarization in the area.

“Heavy deployment of Indian security forces at the border villages of Kamjong due to the ongoing turmoil in Myanmar has sparked fresh fear among the villagers, as they fear the whole border village may be militarized,” The Sangai Express reported.

“The villages of Kamjong district in Manipur, which share an international border with Myanmar, have accused the Indian security forces of involvement in the ongoing unrest in Myanmar,” the Ukhrul Times reported. The villagers fear that peace at the border is seriously threatened and alarmingly compromised due to militarization and the large influx of refugees from Myanmar into Kamjong district, it added.

The Imphal Times reported in a similar vein. “The Assam Rifles (AR), a paramilitary force, has established posts at every entry and exit point, bringing daily activities to a near standstill. This escalation follows reports of ongoing conflict within Myanmar, creating significant disturbance and fear among the local population,” its report read.

“On May 17, a team of journalists from Ukhrul set out to investigate the situation firsthand. Upon arriving at the Kamjong district headquarters, they encountered the first of many AR checkpoints. Although initially allowed entry, the journalists noted an unusually high level of scrutiny and questioning,” the news outlet added.

According to The Sangai Express, the situation at the border villages of Kamjong district, which are situated at the frontier belt spanning about 65 kilometers, remains volatile after the outbreak of fresh violence in Myanmar.

The villagers reportedly told the visiting journalists that the sudden deployment of two companies of Indian security forces has worried them all. “They said that the ‘forced occupation’ of their villages without the approval and consent of the village authority is a violation of their customary laws. Free movement of security forces in the area without the knowledge of village leaders has made the women insecure,” the report added.

The Indian Army was even reported to have occupied a residential house in Zingshophai Choro village.

The headman of Wanglee reportedly said that the Indian armed forces came to the village in large numbers but only a few were seen returning, making them wonder where the rest of the soldiers had gone.

“The villagers, on the other hand, said that the security forces may be coming for a covert mission and the same is likely to endanger them and disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in the border villages,” it was reported.

Some villagers of Namlee were reported to have claimed that “the Army warned them not to go to a nearby jungle without their permission when they were searching for a missing local last week.” The Army reportedly told the villagers that two teams of soldiers have been sent on a mission to the frontier region, it added.

A civilian was injured in a mine explosion in the jungle and was given medical treatment at Kaka village, The Sangai Express reported the villagers as saying.

“One elder of Namlee village claimed that Indian security forces only visited the Kuki refugees’ camp, which he found unfair and suspicious. The conflict is in Myanmar territory, so why is the Assam Rifles setting up multiple checkpoints at border villages?” he asked, according to the report.

The reports also said that villagers living in frontier areas of Kamjong expressed suspicion that the Indian security forces and other agencies may be involved in clandestine activities in the border villages.

“People living in border villages have been terrorized by regular bombings and gunfights,” they said, adding that innocent civilians often flee for safety from the border villages,” the Express report added.

The Ukhrul Times reported that villagers are afraid to graze their cattle at the border, fearing for their lives. “They cannot go to the jungle to forage for food. They are afraid there could be more mines planted,” the report added.

“Lately, Indian security forces have apprehended many Meitei underground cadres at the border. However, there is not a single report of Kuki underground cadres being apprehended at the border,” it further reported.

A team from the District Administration of Kamjong district was also reported to be at the border for capturing biometric details and gathering information about the new influx of refugees. According to the Ukhrul Times report, “It is learnt that 259 new refugees have moved in from Myanmar to the Indian side as of May 16, 2024.”

“The unchecked presence of the AR, coupled with the increasing refugee population and the looming threat of external conflict, has created a volatile environment. There is a pressing need for the government to address the concerns of the local populace, ensuring that security measures do not infringe upon the rights and safety of the villagers,” the Imphal Times report said.

MTNews Desk

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