'We are being divided by India and Myanmar'

Fencing pillar erected by Myanmar government along Indo-Myanmar border, ITC Dan, Pangsha under Noklak District. (Morung Photo)

P Achumse Yingbithongru
Pangsha | May 22

In a rugged terrain fill with rolling hills, streams, and valley where one civilization ends and another begins, a unique crisis is about to unfold if the Free Movement Regime (FMR) is repealed and the proposed fencing along Indo-Myanmar is erected. 

For centuries, the Khiamniungan Naga community living on either side of Myanmar and India has roamed these forests, mountains, and rivers for cultivation and rearing Mithun unhindered and not bothered by authorities. Their tradition, their language, and their identity are intrinsically tied to this land shaping every aspect of their existence.

Interacting with The Morung Express through an interpreter, Nokha Head GB, Dan Village under India recalled, “I was a young boy when the British first landed here but we could not communicate with each other as we did not know their language and they did not know our language.”



Pillar erected in middle of  Dan Village under India.

 

“We saw British authority writing down numbers on bamboo and erecting it, so we ask them what they were doing, they simply said this will be the area where farmers from our side and Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) will communicate and travel up to,” the GB who is an octogenarian added. 

He said later on, they were told it was a boundary line between India and Myanmar and more pillars came up. 

The Octogenarian, who has witnessed an unjust history unfolding under his own eyes, vowed he would stand tooth and nail against any division of his people by an imaginary boundary as “our people are there up to Lahe and Khumti in Myanmar.”


Traditional kitchen at Pounyiu Village under Myanmar


“When major portion of our land, fields and forests is there inside the imaginary boundary why do they want to divide us and create division; we will never allow that to happen under any circumstance so authority should not even dream of erecting fence,” he exclaimed. 

He added that if fencing is erected against the will and desire of the people then there will be social unrest and undesirable situation.

Giving a brief historical account, P Shingnya, Chairman, Dan Village Council said the so called boundary never existed during their forefather days. “It is just a recent phenomenon that has been put in place by India and Myanmar authorities without our knowledge and consent.”

He stated that only in 1970, possibly in the knowledge of India, the Myanmar government erected Pillar No-146, but their forefathers were completely unaware as they were not informed about it by both governments on the reason behind erecting the pillar. 

“When our forefather’s came to know why the pillar was erected, they destroyed it multiple times as they did not want family, culture, tradition, and land to be divided when they have lived together as one for centuries.”

 


Pillar erected in middle of  Dan Village under India.


He informed that a team consisting of 5 members from Nagaland travelled to Delhi in 2016 to appraise the Indian government of the ground reality and to convey the objection against fencing basing on historical facts. “In the meeting, authorities told us we are just ‘paper pushers’ in Delhi and assured us to look into the matter basing on the reality and have further meeting with Myanmar authority.”

Alleging how sinisterly the groundwork was laid by Myanmar government for erecting fencing along the border, he said it started off under the guise of constructing road and they were never told that the real agenda was to erect fence, “we only came to know later when fencing post was erected in our village Dan that government was going to fence the border.”

Sensing the intention of the Myanmar government to fence the border to divide, in 2016 Pangsha range CSO’s vehemently protested against it and resolved not to allow fencing under any circumstance as families and tribe cannot be divided.

“Before, Indian authorities never gave us problem, nor did they knew of us and in that case Myanmar as well, we lived in peace as one family and looked after each other during difficult times but why do they want to destroy family, culture, and tradition that we dearly revered as a Khiamniungan tribe irrespective of where one live,’ Shingnya lamented. 

“We have told authorities if fencing is erected against the will of the people, public will not let Indian army stay in Dan and moreover there will be unnecessary bloodshed,” he went on to caution. 

Speaking of behalf of public, Lango, Village Chief of Waikingpou Village under Myanmar, also an Octogenarian echoed, “We too migrated from Pangsha and few group of people from here migrated to Lahe and Khumti, we are all one family, one brother, and one land whether we live in either side of the border.”

“I was young when the British first came but never thought or knew such imaginary boundary will be set up, so if by force, authorities wants to erect fence and divide us now we will oppose it,” he stated.

“Why do authorities wants to create disunity between brothers, sons, and family by putting up fencing when we are living together, drinking together in one cup, eating together in one plate, and sharing the same land without any problem since my forefather’s days,” Lango lamented.

Citing blood ties and unique tribal land holding system, Mucho, Chairman of Waikingpou Village said “Whether we live in Pangsha, Noklak, or Myanmar we are all Khiamniungan. Even Waikingpou Village land belongs to Pangsha, so is our land in Dan Village under India.”

A public leader from Pounyiu (Hempu) Village under Myanmar also sharing his thought on the FMR said, “This issue is not a new thing, we have always opposed it from the beginning and we should remember that Nagas are not divided but we are being divided by India and Myanmar.”