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Rallies held in Mizoram to protest Centre's decision to fence India-Myanmar border

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NewsDrum Desk
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Aizawl, May 16 (PTI) Thousands of people participated in rallies in Mizoram on Thursday to protest the Centre's decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and withdraw the free movement regime with the neighbouring country.

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The peaceful rallies, organised by Zo Re-Unification Organisation (Zoro), were held in Zokhawthar and Vaphai villages in Champhai district bordering Myanmar, and many people from the neighbouring country also took part in the processions, a leader of the organisation said.

Zoro is a Mizo group which seeks the reunification of all Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi tribes of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar by bringing them under one administration.

The rally in Vaphai began at 7 am and ended around 10 am while another procession in Zokhawthar, where the India-Myanmar Friendship Gate is located, commenced at 11 am and is underway, Zoro general secretary L Ramdinliana Renthlei told PTI.

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"Thousands of people took to the streets in Vaphai while around 7,000 protestors participated in the Zokhawthar rally. Hundreds of people from Myanmar took part in the two rallies, while several could not enter India as the authorities concerned had to close the Friendship Gate to prevent any untoward incident," he said.

Across the India-Myanmar Friendship Gate in Zokhawthar, people waved at each other and raised slogans against the Indian government's decision to scrap the free movement regime and fence the international border between the two countries.

Protesters also held placards and banners, demanding the continuation of free movement in border areas and asserted that they belong to the Zo ethnic group and have been living together for ages.

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The free movement regime (FMR) allows people to cross up to 16 km on both sides of the international border.

Mizoram shares a 510-km-long border with Myanmar's Chin state and the Mizos share ethnic ties with people belonging to the Chin community.

All government offices and schools in the two villages remained closed on Thursday, Renthlei said.

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He claimed that such a protest was also held in Manipur's Tengnoupal district.

"Rallies are peaceful and there is no law and order issue so far," a senior police officer said.

The protesters demanded that the Centre must review its decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and scrap the FMR with the neighbouring country, Renthlei said.

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More than 34,000 people from the Chin state of Myanmar are currently taking shelter in different parts of Mizoram, according to the state home department.

The Chin people fled their homes following a military coup in the neighbouring country in February 2021.

The Mizoram government, civil society organisations and student bodies have strongly opposed the Centre's decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and lift the FMR because they believe that it will "disturb" close contact between ethnic communities of the two countries.

The Mizoram assembly had on February 28 passed a resolution, opposing the Centre's decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and abolish the FMR. PTI CORR TR BDC

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