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The central government of India is contemplating the termination of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar. The proposed policy reversal aims to address concerns related to illegal immigration, insurgencies in the Northeast, and the inflow of drugs. However, this decision is met with strong opposition, especially in states like Mizoram and Nagaland, where the historical and cultural context of the FMR plays a crucial role.

The FMR termination has sparked a heated debate, with Mizoram and Nagaland emphasizing the deep-rooted connections between communities that have lived together for centuries before international boundaries divided them. Dr David Hanneng, an Assistant Professor, highlights the cultural ties between various communities, such as the Singphos of Arunachal Pradesh and the Kachins of Myanmar, emphasizing the need to consider the historical reality of shared living spaces.

The controversial move has drawn criticism from various quarters, including TN Mannen, Advisor for Law & Justice and Land Revenue, who acknowledges the need for a tactful approach in addressing this political issue. The proposal also includes the construction of high-security fencing along the border, a measure criticized by the Global Naga Forum (GNF), which has appealed to the Indian government to uphold the FMR agreement with Myanmar.

The GNF argues that the termination of the agreement would not only violate international law but also infringe upon the basic human rights of Naga civilians, restricting their freedom of movement in their ancestral homeland. The organization emphasizes the living history of the Nagas in both India and Myanmar, stating that crossing the Indo-Myanmar border has been a time-honored practice among the Nagas.

According to the Rising People’s Party (RPP) of Nagaland, the Naga perspective on the FMR termination is crucial, as the proposed measures would further divide the already geographically divided Naga people. The imposition of an “imaginary boundary” in 1953 is questioned by the GNF, which expresses concern about the artificial separation of Nagas and their lands across the international border.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma strongly opposed the idea of fencing the Indo-Myanmar border, stating that it would be “unacceptable”. Lalduhoma emphasized the historical division of Mizos by the British government and the significance of the FMR in recognizing and strengthening the brotherhood and integrity of the Mizo people.

The Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) echoed these sentiments, stating that the scrapping of the FMR and the erection of border fencing would disrupt the harmonious coexistence and cultural exchange integral to the lives of the Mizo people.

As the controversy continues to unfold, the central government faces increasing pressure to reconsider its decision and engage in a nuanced dialogue that takes into account the historical, cultural, and human rights dimensions of the Free Movement Regime.

MTNews Desk

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