Forget CAA, NRC: Meet the person who votes both in India and Myanmar

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The Ministry of Home Affairs has recently decided to discontinue the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar. Amidst these changes, a village in Nagaland’s eastern Mon district stands out. The village’s Angh, or chief, votes in both India and Myanmar. This influential figure shapes the political landscape on both sides of the border, as discovered by an investigation conducted by India Today NE.

Longwa village, positioned on the India-Myanmar border, presents a unique story of governance, identity, and geopolitics. The central character in this narrative is the ‘Angh’, the tribal chief Tonyei Konyak of the Konyak community. His house symbolizes the delicate border between the two countries, with his bedroom in India and his living room in Myanmar. Angh’s domain crosses political borders, as he rules over 30 villages in Myanmar and five in India, creating an unparalleled jurisdictional amalgamation.

Speaking to India Today NE, Angh, Tonyei Konyak, who is the king of citizens of Longwa from the India-Myanmar border region, revealed that he holds voter cards from both countries. He displayed his Aadhar card from India and two voter cards of both countries to the India Today NE team. In fact, other residents of the village, including Tonyei Konyak’s two wives, also vote in both countries, though the India Today NE team could not verify this.

Angh, the king of Longwa’s citizens, has expressed his support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling political party, amidst the government’s decision to abolish the Free Movement Regime (FMR). He is concerned about the impact of this policy change on the interconnected community of Longwa, where familial ties often cross national borders. The proposed policy shift could significantly affect daily life in Longwa, a region dependent on agriculture across both Indian and Burmese territories. This sentiment is shared by local villagers who live between the two countries. The Konyak community, according to the Angh, will be heavily impacted by the abolishment of the FMR. When questioned about his voting preferences for the upcoming Indian elections, he confirmed his intention to vote, favouring the BJP, which he believes to be the most prominent party in the region. He has high expectations of the current BJP candidate MLA from his village. Angh voiced his disapproval of any potential fencing initiatives by the Central government along the border, urging them against such actions.

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Longwa village is part of the 44 AC Phomching constituency on the Indian side under Mon district and Yochen Lahe township constituency on the Myanmar side.

The village council secretary of Longwa Longhi Konyak, while speaking to India Today NE, revealed that despite political demarcation, familial bonds transcend the boundaries of India and Myanmar. He resides on the Myanmar side of the village with his parents, while his brother lives on the Indian side. He emphasized that the villagers of Longwa do not identify with either Indian or Burmese nationality, but rather as members of their village. He also stated that nearly 180 families in the village live across the border in both nations. The council secretary highlighted that they receive benefits from both countries, with Myanmar providing developmental facilities for education and healthcare, while India supplies ration and water.

India Today NE recently visited Lahe township in Myanmar. The township hosts one school established in 2014, which falls under the jurisdiction of Chief Angh of Longwa. In addition, there are two government-run schools, one primary and one elementary, managed by the Indian government in Longwa. These institutions cater to students from both India and Myanmar, with enrolment largely dependent on the proximity of students’ residences to the schools.

Amidst political ambiguity, Angh promotes peace and unity, bridging the divide between adjacent communities on both sides of the border. His unwavering dedication to nurturing harmony highlights the tenacity of Longwa’s residents amid geopolitical turmoil.

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