A 164.6 km long border that runs between states - Assam and Mizoram has again become a focal point after a heated clash broke out at the border on July 26, that resulted in the death of five Assam police personnel. Both the state's claim land on the border between Cachar in Assam and Kolasib in Mizoram. In October last year, residents of Assam and Mizoram had clashed twice over the territory, leaving a dozen injured. In the recent years, several instances of violence have been reported in the region for many reasons.
Entangled with conflicts and disputes, the border dispute between Assam and Mizoram did not arise in 1987 when Mizoram got its present identity but it dates back to British colonialrule in the 19th century.
History of the Border Demarcation:
In 1875, the British administration had issued a notification which for the first time stipulated a demarcation between the Cachar plains (currently in Assam) and Lushai Hills, which later came to be known as Mizoram.
But in 1933, the boundary between Lushai Hills and the then princely state of Manipur was demarcated. It said the Manipur boundary began from the trijunction of Lushai Hills, Cachar district of Assam and Manipur state. The Mizoramis do not accept this demarcation, and point to the 1875 boundary which was drawn in consultation with their chiefs.
Since then, Mizoram claims that the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873. However, Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation, and that is the point of conflict.
Mizoram argues that the 1933 demarcation notification was issued without any consultation with the Mizo society. Accusing each other of encroachment, both the states now claim land on the border between Assam's Cachar and Mizoram's Kolasib district.
When did the disputes between Assam and Mizoram begin?
When Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987, Mizo tribal leaders raised the border dispute claiming that Assam had taken away their land.
In 1995, the first major clashes were reported in Lushai Hills along the border when the Mizoram government tried to settle people there as per the 1875 demarcation. Nearly 50 persons, including journalists, were injured in action by Assam police in 2018 after some Mizo civil society groups tried to set up a hut on the disputed boundary.
In 2019, the two states agreed to maintain a status quo and have no man’s land in the disputed area.
Skirmishes in October 2020 left several injured on both sides and resulted in a blockade of National Highway 306, the lifeline to Mizoram, for 12 days. Days before this clash, on October 9, similar violence took place on the border of Karimganj (Assam) and Mamit (Mizoram) districts.
Current row regarding the border dispute:
Six Assam cops were killed and around 80 people, including officials, were injured in firing by Mizoram police and alleged Mizo intruders along the inter-state border in Cachar’s Lailapur on Monday.
Commenting on the clashes, the Assam government said that in a breach of the existing agreements, the Mizoram government had begun the construction of a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam, destroying the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Lailapur area.
On the other hand, the Mizoram government, claimed that 200 Assam Police personnel had forced their way past a post defended by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as well as the Mizoram Police and damaged vehicles on the National Highway.
Notably, Assam also has border disputes with Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, the other states carved out of Assam.
What leaders have to say on the incident?
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma pointed to amicable progress with Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. Sarma said he was hopeful that Assam’s border dispute with Mizoram could be sorted out peacefully.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga referred to the border disputes being a colonial legacy and emphasised that a lasting peace between states in the region could not be achieved without resolving the disputes.
After the violence, both Sarma and Zoramthanga put out tweets blaming the other side for the situation at the Assam-Mizoram border. Both sought the intervention of Amit Shah.
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