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Villagers caught in row

Imphal, June 21: Villagers of Haolenphai in Manipur are living in fear after the Myanmar army allegedly forced them to dismantle two houses after entering the village and staking claim on the land.

Haolenphai, a Kuki-dominated village, is located about 3km from the border township of Moreh, which is 109km from Imphal.

Border trade with Myanmar is conducted through Moreh.

“Two weeks back, the Myanmarese army came to our village and forced us to dismantle two houses, saying the land belongs to Myanmar. They also asked us to vacate the village,” village chief Lalkhulun Haokip said.

The dispute has come to the fore after the construc- tion of a 10km fence by the Assam Rifles along the Manipur-Myanmar border.

People have objected to the fencing claiming that it was much inside Manipur territory leaving vast tracts of Indian land in Myanmar.

After the opposition, the fence construction was suspended some months back.

Stating that the Myanmarese army first erected a wooden fence in the village, about a km from the original boundary line, Haokip said they then started claiming the village land.

Myanmarese army posts were subsequently opened along the wooden fence constructed by them.

Haolenphai is located between border pillars 76 and 74.

The villagers claimed the Myanmarese army recently installed a fresh border pillar in the village.

Haokip has reported the matter to Assam Rifles and civil authorities at Moreh.

“We have an Assam Rifles post in Moreh. The Assam ifles and the state government authorities told us to dismantle the two houses saying they were built on disputed territory,” Haokip said.

Official sources confirmed the village was on “disputed” territory.

After the village chief reported the matter to the Information Centre for Hill Areas (ICHAM), a citizen’s group working towards safeguarding Manipur boundary, a team from the organisation visited the village to take stock of the situation yesterday.

The team found farmers of the neighbouring country cultivating paddy in Haolenphai.

“The state government should take immediate steps to demarcate the border area to prevent a flare-up between the villagers and the Myanmarese army,” Haokip said.

N. Rajendro, president of ICHAM, urged the Okram Ibobi Singh government to immediately take steps to resolve the dispute.

He said they would highlight the problem before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if the state government failed to take prompt action.

The villagers and the organisation demanded opening of a security post at the village for protection of the villagers and Manipur’s territory.


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