The top Army officer in the Eastern Command has issued clear instructions to the Assam Rifles, who guard the 1,643-kilometer Myanmar border, to allow entry not only to villagers seeking refuge from the fighting in Myanmar, but also to personnel from the Myanmar army who are pushed into India. These Myanmar army personnel, who are forced to cross the border due to the fighting with pro-democracy resistance forces in nearby areas, are required to surrender their weapons and have their identities verified before being handed over to authorities in Myanmar.
However, the officer emphasized that no armed individuals are being allowed entry, and precautions are being taken to prevent drug peddlers from entering India under the guise of refugees. This statement from Lieutenant General Rana Pratap Kalita, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-In-C) of the Eastern Command, comes after 5,000 refugees entered India last week, and 60 Myanmar army soldiers were handed back to Myanmar authorities.
Most of the refugees are entering India through Mizoram, where the tribes have a strong ethnic connection with the people of Myanmar. Some are also coming through conflict-ridden Manipur. Lt Gen Kalita stated that the forces on the Myanmar border have clear instructions to allow common villagers seeking refuge to enter India, in consultation with the state government. When they wish to return, they are sent back. However, armed cadres are not allowed to enter.
The Army has confiscated a significant amount of contraband drugs and narcotics from individuals coming across the border, so close attention is being paid to drug peddlers. Even when Myanmar army personnel enter, they are allowed in only after surrendering their weapons. After proper identification, they are taken to the Moreh border in Manipur and handed over to Myanmar authorities.
Regarding the ongoing violence in Manipur, Lt Gen Kalita stated that they have been able to largely contain it. However, sporadic incidents occur due to the sharp polarization between the two communities. Lt Gen Kalita stressed the need for a political resolution of the situation.
In a separate incident, two individuals were killed in Manipur when suspected members of a terror group ambushed their vehicle between Haraothel and Kobsha villages. This incident occurred near the Singda dam, which has become a hotspot for insurgent groups targeting tribal community members during the ongoing ethnic violence in the state. A tribal organization claimed that members of the Kuki-Zo community were attacked without provocation and declared a “shutdown” in Kangpokpi district.
Lt Gen Kalita added that there have been longstanding issues between communities in Manipur, and now both communities are completely polarized. More than 4,000 looted weapons are still in the hands of people, leading to their use in sporadic incidents. The violence in Manipur, which began on May 3 during a “Tribal Solidarity March” protesting the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status, has resulted in over 200 deaths and more than 3,000 injuries.