The Mizoram Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution against the Centre’s decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and suspend the free movement regime with the neighbouring country, PTI reported.

On February 8, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that his ministry had recommended immediate suspension of India’s free movement regime with Myanmar. He had earlier announced that the border between the two countries will be fenced.

“The [home ministry] has decided that the free movement scrapped to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s northeastern states bordering Myanmar,” Shah had said in a social media post.

The free movement regime, which has been in place since the 1970s, allows visa-free movement for persons living within 16 km on either side of India and Myanmar’s shared, largely unfenced, 1,643-km-long border along Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

However, the resolution moved by Mizoram Home Minister K Sapdanga urged the Centre to reconsider its decision and take steps instead to ensure that the ethnic Zo people can live together without a fence dividing their ancestral land.

Mizos share strong ethnic ties with Manipur’s Kuki and Myanmar’s Chin tribes.

“The British geographically divided the Zo ethnic people who have inhabited [present-day] Mizoram and the Chin Hills of Myanmar for centuries together, once under their own administration,” The Hindu quoted Sapdanga as saying. “We have been dreaming of reunification and cannot accept the India-Myanmar border imposed upon us.”

The Zoram People’s Movement government in Mizoram came to power in December promising that it would continue to provide shelter and assistance to refugees from Myanmar and those displaced due to the ethnic violence in Manipur.

On Wednesday, Sapdanga said that fencing the state’s border with Myanmar would emotionally and economically hurt the ethnic groups living on either side of the border.

“If the Centre is so concerned about national security, it should fence the international borders with Bhutan and Nepal,” the state home minister said. Visa documents are not required for those visiting India from the two neighbouring countries.

Since February 2021, nearly 35,000 Chin refugees from Myanmar have crossed over to the state amid civil war in the country. Around 12,000 Kuki-Zo persons from Manipur have also fled to Mizoram after ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities broke out in the state in May.

On Wednesday, Sapdanga also alleged that the Centre’s decision was motivated by demands of the Manipur government.

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