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Moreh buzz belies security trouble
Published on 4 Feb. 2010 12:44 AM IST
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Every morning, Shan Su, a young mother of two from Myanmar’s Tamu, crosses the international border carrying a basket of fresh fish to sell at Moreh, with a prayer on her lips that the day passes off peacefully. By 8am, this border trade hub is teeming with traders, porters and taxis. Abuzz with activity and bustling with businessmen, the trade hub has a reassuring aura that belies the law and order tension within. Underneath, Moreh is a tinderbox, ready to explode, cautioned Raju Singh, a resident. In November last year, Nengsuanmang Zou, a Kuki trader from Moreh, never returned after a visit to Tamu. The incident fanned communal tension as Kukis believed members of a particular community were involved in the abduction. Moreh residents apparently know that the trader was killed and they seem to know who killed him, but no one is willing to open up. As a communal tension brewed over the missing trader, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh rushed his trouble-shooter, Bijoy Koijam, who is also the deputy chairman of the state planning board, to Moreh last Friday. Koijam resolved the matter by bringing the communities together and convincing them of the need to maintain communal harmony and peace at the border township. He also extended financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh and a government job to Zou’s wife. “However, you can never tell what will happen next,” he said, after returning to Imphal. According to a report in Sinlung, with a population of 30,000, Moreh is home to 11 different communities, though Kukis and Meiteis form the majority. After the Indo-Myanmar border trade was thrown open in 1995, people from all parts of Manipur and the country began heading for this border town to make a fortune. “We have five families from Kumaon region. Many people come daily to stay here. You don’t know who is who. This leads to unwanted developments,” Thoiba Ningthoujam, the assistant secretary of Meitei Council, Moreh, said. An intelligence operative posted here said a turf war was on to control Moreh. “Every group wants to control everything from parking to collection of illegal tax. This is the main reason for the perennial tension here,” he said. “You can’t do anything without paying illegal taxes. I am paying Rs 100 to find a parking space. It was because of the turf war that clashes between the Nagas and Kukis erupted in the nineties here and spread to other areas of Manipur. You don’t know when another such clash will break out,” a taxi driver said. Officials posted at Moreh are also worried that the tension could hamper border trade. “It would be stupid if the border trade is shifted to some other state because of the unfavourable situation here. Communities living here should maintain harmony so that trade can boom,” deputy commissioner of Chandel, H. Deelip Singh, said.

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