Mizoram which shares a long porous border with Myanmar has received an influx of Myanmar nationals crossing the border since the coup, has also seen a major spike in smuggling of narcotics and other materials. Brig. Digvijay Singh, Commander of Sector 23 Assam Rifles discussed the ground situation in a telephonic conversation with Dinakar Peri.
Q / In your assessment, how has the instability in Myanmar affected Mizoram?
Mizoram shares a 510 Km long border and ethnic ties with the people of Chin State in Myanmar. After the coup in Myanmar in February 2021, there has been a continuous influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar and is steadily increasing. With the Free Movement Regime (FMR) clause also effective in Mizoram, tracking of these illegal immigrants is difficult but still Assam Rifles keeps a record of all those coming in and going back to Myanmar. The figures of State Government and Assam Rifles do not tally since many of the illegal immigrants have returned back to their country. But still a considerable number are staying in Mizoram. Because of the illegal immigrants, the pressure on the state has considerably increased with various NGO/CSO’s coming out to help the displaced Myanmarees. But it has been more then a year and the situation in Myanmar is still unstable. This instability has fallouts on to our side too.
Q / There were some record seizures recently, can you give an overview.
We have done a number of major operations this year with recoveries ranging upto ₹167 crores. The recoveries were mainly of methamphetamine tablets which is a growing new trend as there is easy money involved since manufacturing cost amounts to ₹5-10 where as market value is approximately ₹3000 in major cities. The increase in recoveries can be attributed to instability in Myanmar and number of armed groups getting involved in smuggling activities to sustain their operations against Myanmar Army. If you see the pattern of narcotics smuggling it shows a sharp increase post coup and in the year 2022 the rise has been four times compared to previous year. It can be said that there has been a steady increase in the pattern till 2019 and it has increased exponentially thereafter.
Q / What do you have to say about the huge recoveries of Narcotics/ War Like Stores (WLS) that has been made by the Assam Rifles and other agencies?
Recoveries show an increasing trend in the inflow of narcotics which has shown a sudden surge in the last two months with huge recoveries of Meth tablets. It could be the result of increase in the demand or the easy money it brings along with it. Till date we have apprehended 31 Myanmar nationals involved in illegal activities. Due to disturbance and uncertainty in their homeland and having easy access to both the countries and the easy bulk money it brings along, it is quiet convenient for Myanmarees to get involved in this racket. As far as WLS is concerned the local resistance forces in Myanmar require WLS and tactical stores for their operations against Myanmar army, and due to sympathisers on our side it is comparatively easier for them to arrange stores from Mizoram. But Assam Rifles have been vigilant and we have made huge recoveries in terms of WLS, tactical stores. Though Mizoram is a peaceful state, with so much movement of narcotics and WLS the possibility of any untoward incident can not be ruled out.
Q / With situation relatively quiet, what are the biggest challenges you are facing on the ground?
23 Sector Assam Rifles is responsible for guarding and management of 510 km of Indo-Myanmar Border (IMB) of the total 1,643 km. IMB is porous, major portion is riverine border and rugged terrain with large number of unreachable (No Go) areas. Special provision of FMR along with ethnic affiliation makes dynamics of IMB unique as well as challenging. With limited availability of troops, proximity to Golden triangle, FMR, unstable Myanmar (illegal immigrants), armed conflicts along International border both along Myanmar and Bangladesh, border issue between Mizoram and Assam, transit point of Indian insurgent groups and most illegal smuggling of narcotics and contraband makes the security situation in Mizoram very dynamic.
Q / In last few months there were huge recoveries of narcotics in Aizawl. Your view on this?
Aizawl being at the heart of Mizoram, all goods including contraband and narcotics pass through it. Our Battalion at Aizawl has been playing major role in operations and is a big deterrent for all inimical activities. In the last few months we have recovered narcotics worth more than ₹100 Crore and all endeavours are in place to keep the city clean of all illegal acts.
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