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Panic Among Locals as Mizoram-Myanmar Border Gate Remains Closed Even After Polling

Many fear if the decision of the Assam Rifles to continue to seal the gate, located on a bridge over river Tiau in Mizoram’s Champai district, a possible indication to scrap free movement regime with Myanmar.
Representational image. Photo: Unsplash

New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, the gate manned by the Indian security forces at the Mizoram-Myanmar border remained closed even after the voting for the Mizoram parliamentary seat was completed on April 21 evening because of an “order” that “came from the higher authorities”.

The decision of the Assam Rifles to continue to seal the gate, located on a bridge over river Tiau in Mizoram’s Champai district that borders Myanmar, created panic among residents on both sides on April 21 evening, with many taking it to be the implementation of the Narendra Modi government’s recent decision to revoke the free movement regime (FMR) with Myanmar.

As per the FMR agreement, residents on both sides of the international border, many of whom share kinship, are allowed to cross over with a distance of 16 kms. Though Union home minister Amit Shah had announced this past February that his government had revoked the FMR understanding with Myanmar, Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh in the winter session of the assembly held this past March, had stated that though Shah’s ministry had conveyed it to the ministry of external affairs, FMR had not been scrapped yet.

News reports coming from Aizawl said the Champai district commissioner James Lalrinchhana, on receiving pleas from local residents on April 21 evening, contacted the Assam Rifles on the matter. He told reporters that following the usual norm during an election in Mizoram, the border gate, popularly referred to as Friendship Gate, was closed on April 17, 72 hours prior to the April 21 voting, to ensure that unwanted elements don’t cross the border and disrupt the elections.

It was to be opened after voting ended at 5 pm on April 21. But the Assam Rifles guards manning the gate continued to keep the border closed “saying the order came from the higher authorities.”

On reaching out to the ‘higher authorities’ by the Champai DC, an order was passed to allow people to cross on April 22.

What particularly raised the alarm bells among the locals was the Assam Rifles asking residents of both sides of the border to assemble at the bridge for an ‘important meeting’ on April 20 in which it conveyed to them that the movement across the gate would not be possible as the FMR has been put under suspension.

As per an Assam Rifles statement, after “receiving the requests from locals,” it “held a meeting with them and informed them that the gate would remain open till April 30 only for movement of persons requiring medical attention, essential food items, and medicines. From May 1, the border will be sealed again to prevent any cross-border activity.”

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