02 Aug 2021  |   05:16am IST

Centre needs to resolve dispute between Assam and Mizoram

Assam and Mizoram flexed their muscles over the border dispute which led to the killing of seven, including six Assam policemen, and several injured in the clashes at the border on July 26.
Centre needs to resolve dispute between Assam and Mizoram

The two States have been engaged in a tense stand-off. In fact, three districts of Assam share a 164-km-long boundary with three districts of Mizoram and the demarcation between the two States are being contested at several points at this 164-km stretch. Both States are blaming each other for this sudden and unfortunate escalation of violence.

During the ongoing border dispute, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga accused the Assam government of making “lame excuses” by claiming illegal drugs trafficking and cattle smuggling as the reason behind imposing a blockade against Mizoram. The area is known for the above two allegations made by the Chief Minister of Mizoram. Zoramthanga while referring to the July 26 incident claiming that the Assam Police had used batons and lathi-charged along with the tear gas shells at the locals from Mizoram who came to protest against them. He also mentioned that a superintendent of police of Mizoram Police barely escaped from the firing coming from the Assam side.

It is pertinent to know that Mizoram was earlier a part of Assam and was known as “Lushai Hills” and it became a Union territory in 1972 and finally a State in 1987. Three districts of Assam   Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj   share a 164-km-long stretch of boundary with three districts of Mizoram – capital Aizawl, Kolasib and Mamit. The boundary passes through a forested area along the stretch which is contested by both States blaming each other for encroachment. At the heart of the dispute are two notifications issued during the British rule - in 1875 in 1933 - on demarcation of the boundary between the two States. The Mizos say they do not accept the 1933 notification, and claim their leaders were not consulted for it. The first dispute emerged in 1994 that is within seven years of Mizoram becoming a State. The Union government in fact had laid out several rounds of talks between the two States to resolve the boundary dispute but tensions remained and the outcome of all these round of talks failed to deliver results and peace at the border between the two States. It does require a deeper understanding of the issues and the Union government will have to lead it from the front to resolve the dispute, even though the Chief Minister of Assam mentioned on Sunday that he will take this issue to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile in a another surprise move the northeastern States of Assam and Nagaland on Saturday signed agreements to immediately withdraw their forces from the border locations in a bid to de-escalate tensions between these two states. Crediting Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio for the efforts to restore peace, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma expressed his gratitude over the “historic” step. "In a major breakthrough towards de-escalating tensions at Assam-Nagaland border, the two Chief Secretaries have arrived at an understanding to immediately withdraw states’ forces from border locations to their respective base camps,” Sarma posted on his social media handle on Saturday. This move is to set the narrative that Assam wants peace in this northeastern area which is strategically critical for India.

The reason for no clashes between Assam and Nagaland is because both the States are under the NDA rule. In Nagaland's 60-member Assembly the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has 20 MLAs and is supported by 12 BJP and two independent MLAs. While in Mizoram, which is led by Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front, has 27 MLAs and with support of the lone BJP MLA in a 40 member assembly.

The dispute escalated on Friday when Mizoram Police filed a case naming the Assam Chief Minister and other officials. The report said Assam police personnel, acting under instructions from Assam Chief Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma himself, refused to have an “amicable dialogue” with the Mizoram Police on July 26. However, under pressure Mizoram has initiated the legal process to drop Assam Chief Minister’s name from an FIR filed in connection with the recent violence but according to the Mizoram police the investigation on others named in the FIR shall continue.

“I will not allow our officers to be investigated,” the Assam Chief Minister mentioned on Sunday to the media and added in social media platform that “Our main focus is on keeping the spirit of North-East alive,” he tweeted. The Assam Chief Minister's statement on Sunday came after a telephonic conversation he had with his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. It is evident that the Union government will have to intervene to resolve this age-old dispute between Assam and Mizoram.