Photo: ANI
Photo: ANI

On Saturday, violence had erupted along the Assam-Mizoram border with with several people injured and shops and houses being burnt. Since then, The Chief Ministers of the two states have held meetings to resolve the crisis, and Prime Minister Modi had been apprised. This is the second such clash to take place this month.

While the October 9 incident had seen a hut and a betel nut plantation belonging to residents of Mizoram being set ablaze, Saturday's alternation saw the two sides pelting stones, and attacking each other. Reportedly, the miscreants had also attacked police personnel.

According to Mizoram officials, the fact that land claimed by Assam was being cultivated by residents of Mizoram had led to the October 9 incident.

Following the Saturday incident, Dilip Kumar Dey, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Southern Assam, had noted the presence of a COVID-19 testing centre that had been set up recently by Mizoram government at Lailapur, 1.5 km inside the Assamese territory. Objections by Cachar police had reportedly prompted youths from Mizoram to come to Lailapur on Saturday. They had attacked the truck drivers, villagers and burnt more than 15 small shops-cum-houses. Villagers in Mizoram's adjacent Mamit district however had told the media that miscreants from Cachar came to their villages and attacked shops and houses, causing huge damage.

Saturday's skirmish had taken place in the Vairengte and Lailapur border area. Vairengte in Kolasib district is on the northern fringe of Mizoram through which the National Highway 306 (formerly 54) passes, linking the state to Assam. The nearest village in Assam is Lailapur, which is in the Cachar district.

But while the two sides continue to apportion blame, there are several factors that must be noted. For one, the border between Assam and Mizoram is not perfectly defined in all areas. At the same time, the two state governments have an agreement which stipulates that status quo be maintained in the no man’s land along the border.

The problem however lies in the fact that people in the area have often laid claim to land that the other state believes to be rightfully theirs. While conflict at the Assam-Mizoram border is a comparatively less frequent situation than other state boundaries in the area, it nonetheless continues to persist.

Present day Mizoram had been carved out of Assam's Lushai Hills region in 1987. While political consciousness and a sense of identity had dawned even before Indian Independence, the resentment over being governed under the state of Assam took several decades to reach a tipping point. A famine in 1959 proved a horrifying, yet pivotal moment, with the Mizo National Front (MNF) leading the cause to create a greater Mizoram that encompassed all the Mizo tribes.

Coming back to the border dispute, there are two notifications that have since created confusion and unrest. While an 1875 notification differentiates the Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar, a 1933 notification demarcates a boundary between the Lushai Hills and Manipur.

As a document uploaded to the Land Revenue and Settlement Department of the Mizoram government notes, "Ill-defined boundary had always been the cause of border trouble in the Lushai Hills". This, is not limited to Assam. "Normally, local, national or international boundaries are modified by the geographical environment, economic consideration and political pressure. In Mizoram, the geographical factors (like rivers and mountains) got priority over the other two," the document states.

It also notes that as per the Government notification of 1933, the boundaries of Mizoram were modified, and stand at present.

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