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From MIZZIMA News Group (r)
Nibbling away on the eastern front
(Molcham village in Manipur is all set to follow in the wake of Tuivang
because of Myanmar's increasing assertion in the face of India's apathy,
writes JB LAMA)
>From the Statesman newspaper
20th June 19999
INTRUSIONS, quite different in shape and scale from those in Kargil,
have been taking place along the Indo-Myanmarese border in Manipur for
some years. But relations with the neighbouring country being friendly,
little attention has been paid, Presumably because there is a mutual
understanding between the two countries to allow free movement of
citizens up to a certain limit within each other's territory.
A report in March quoted Manipur minister for health Morung Mokunga as
having said that tribal Myanmarese encroached on forest and agricultural
land in the state's Yangaupokpi village in Chandel district and they are
growing mustard on at least a square kilometre of Indian soil. Forests
are also being destroyed. Delhi's reaction was a casual "we're unaware
of the development".
This is not the first instance of Delhi's apathy towards happenings
along the eastern border. Nor does the Manipur government seem to treat
the matter with the seriousness it deserves. The only organisation that
has shown an interest is the Manipur Cultural Integration Conference.
They visited remote villages before insurgency restricted their
movement. Their objective remains to promote the culture of different
ethnic groups and bring about an understanding among the hill tribes.
As early as in 1982, some members returned from a visit to Molcham and
Tuivang villages and told the Centre that the people there were living
under "constant threat, intimidation and oppression by the Myanmarese
security forces since 1966".
Molcham and Tuivang in south-east Tengnoupal district cover an area of
two square kilometres. Tuivang is no longer considered part of India
following the "mysterious disappearance" in the 1970s of the border
pillar No 66 that demarcated the boundary. Delhi was not shaken by this
event. No formal protests were lodged. Till 1963 the Tuivang villagers
were said to have paid their house taxes to the Manipur government.
The communication link with Molcham is poor. It takes as many as two
days from the capital town of Imphal to reach the village, part of the
journey being through Myanmar. Molcham in the 1980s had 500-600
inhavitants, half of whom were Haokips of the Kuki clan, Hmars and
In a memorandum to India Gandhi in 1982, Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 and PV
Narasimha Rao in 1995, MCIC president Maharajkumar Priyabrata Singh drew
attention to the fact that Molcham had been practically under the
control of Myanmarese forces.
In December 1986 Myanmarese troops reportedly put up a notice at the
Molcham police outpost demanding 50,000 kyats from the villagers,
failing which they threatened to confiscate the police wireless set.
In 1992, in reference to frequent intrusions, then chief minister RK
Dorendra told reporters in Calcutta that the "Myanmarese military is
behaving as if there is no border".
In November 1992, the Myanmarese troops allegedly trespassed into
Chandel district and abducted 17 villagers. In March 1994, they
reportedly took away three policemen and five lorry drivers and seized
The Importance of Molcham lies in the fact that the Tamu-Kalewa road
passes through the village. Myanmar claims Molcham on that basis.
According to the MCIC, the strategic World War II road "swerves in a
westerly direction, enters Indian territory and crosses the Tuivang
river over the Bailley bridge and runs parallel until it crosses the
Hamilton bridge over the Tuito river, known as Auktang Chaung by the
The Manipur police outpost at Molcham is merely a symbol of India's
authority and cannot offer protection to villagers when harassed by the
Myanmarese. Visits by ministers and legislators are few and far between.
In 1991, then Manipur governor Chintamani Panigrahi visited the village,
heard their grievances and that was all.
The border has been active since 1988 when many pro-democracy activists
entered the Indian border town of Moreh to evade arrests by the State
Law and Order Restoration Council. Some of them are still living there.
It is in this context that the border must be properly protected. There
is an understanding on preventing the inadvertent violation of each
other's territory by security forces. But this is what the MCIC has to
say: "Delimitation of the boundary was agreed upon in 1987. The actual
demarcation was done by erecting boundary pillars No 64, 65 (old BP 34),
66 (old 33) and 67 (old 32). However, at some later stage the Myanmarese
military forces damaged BP 66, possibly to use the Tamu-Kalewa Road
passing through the Molcham Sector. In reality BPs 64-67 are under
Recently Myanmarese forces were said to have constructed a new diversion
of the Tamu-Kalewa road using Indian territory. Border trade through
Moreh has been legalised. The Molcham issue should not be allowed to
sour cordial relations.
The MCIC's suggestion that India should construct two or more "bridges
of friendship" to link the Tamu-Kalewa Road entirely through Myanmarese
territory is worth following. Not a difficult proposition considering
the fact that Inida is already engaged in constructing roads, bridges
and railway lines in that country.
(The author is a veteran journalist who recently retired from the