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Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute

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July 27, 2021

Why in news?

The old boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram exploded in violent clashes at a contested border point.

What led to the violence and clashes?

  • The violence highlights the long-standing inter-state boundary issues in the Northeast, particularly between Assam and the states that were carved out of it.
  • Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley.
  • Both the States border Bangladesh.
  • Status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
  • This was the understanding according to an agreement between governments of Assam and Mizoram some years ago.
  • However, people from Lailapur, Assam broke the status quo.
  • They allegedly constructed some temporary huts.
  • People from Mizoram side went and set fire on them.
  • Officials say that the contested land belongs to Assam as per the state’s records.
  • According to Mizoram officials, the land claimed by Assam has been cultivated for a long time by residents of Mizoram.
  • On the other hand, Mizoram’s civil society groups blame “illegal Bangladeshis” (alleged migrants from Bangladesh) on the Assam side for the disturbances.

What is the origin of the boundary dispute?

  • The boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long.
  • The heart of the dispute dates back to the colonial era.
  • Back then, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, a district of Assam.
  • The dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated the Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar.
  • [This was derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.]
  • Another notification of 1933demarcates a boundary between the Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • The Mizo society was not consulted prior to the 1933 notification.
  • So, Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification.
  • But the Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation.
  • This is the point of conflict between the two states.

What led to the two differing notifications?

  • British tea plantations surfaced in the Cachar plains during the mid-19th century.
  • [It covers the Barak Valley - now comprises the districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj.]
  • Their expansion led to problems with the Mizos whose home was the Lushai Hills.
  • In August 1875, the southern boundary of Cachar district was issued in the Assam Gazette.
  • The Mizos say this was the fifth time the British had drawn the boundary between the Lushai Hills and the Cachar plains.
  • But this wasthe only time when it was done in consultation with Mizo chiefs.
  • This demarcation also became the basis for the Inner Line Reserve Forest demarcation in the Gazette two years later.
  • But in 1933, the boundary between Lushai Hills and the then princely state of Manipur was demarcated.
  • This notification said the Manipur boundary began from the trijunction of Lushai Hills, Cachar district of Assam and Manipur state.
  • The Mizos do not accept this demarcation, and point to the 1875 boundary which was drawn in consultation with their chiefs.
  • In the decades after Independence, many states and UTs were carved out of Assam:
    1. Nagaland (1963)
    2. Arunachal Pradesh (UT 1972, formerly NEFA)
    3. Meghalaya (UT 1972)
    4. Mizoram (UT 1972)
  • Now, with different interpretations of the border question, clashes erupt often. The earlier one was in October 2020.
  • In the current clashes, at least six Assam Police personnel were killed.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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