Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 419, 4 August 2021

India: Long-standing tensions escalate in Assam-Mizoram border
Wonchibeni Tsopoe

In the news
On 26 July, six officers of the Assam police and one civilian were killed at the Assam-Mizoram border as a long withstanding boundary issue over the two states aggravated violent clashes.
 
On 30 July, both states agreed to the deployment of CRPF at the four-kilometre stretch from Assam's Lailapur to Mizoram's Vairangtei under the command of a senior CRPF official.
 
The North East Students' Organisation (NESO) the umbrella body of several unions in the region condemned the violence along the Assam-Mizoram border on Monday, the leaders of the students' bodies further said, "The fragile situation is a reminder of how vulnerable security of border residents can be when such conflicts arise."
 
Issues at large
First, the Assam and Mizoram border demarcation problem. Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and 1970s. In 1972, Mizoram became a Union Territory, separating itself from Assam before attaining full statehood in 1987. Three southern Assam districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj share a 164 km long border with Mizoram's Kolasib, Mamit and Aizwal districts. Both the states oppose the demarcation as they claim land on the border between Assam's Cachar and Mizoram's Kolasib district. Due to this disagreement, alleged transgressions have taken place over the decades, and skirmishes increased in recent months; the dispute took an ugly turn on 26 July and escalated into a violent clash.
 
Second, the colonial roots to the conflict. The British government used Assam as ingress to capture the surrounding tribal areas. On 20 August, 1875, the British government stipulated a clear demarcation between the Cachar plains and Lushai hills, which was also a corollary of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BERF) Act of 1873. Mizoram, then called Lushai hills, was turned to a district of Assam. During this time, in 1875, the British released a notification differentiating Lushai hills from the plains of Cachar (present Assam). The second demarcation came in 1933, the map of Mizoram was redrawn and the Cachar-Mizoram border was dissolved.  The new demarcation marked the separation between the Lushai hills and Manipur, which indicated the Manipur border began from the tripping of Lushair Hills, Assam's Cachar district and Manipur.
 
Third, the difference between the two states. According to the Mizos, the first demarcation was done in consultation with Mizos chiefs and two years later, this also became the basis for the Inner Line Reserve Forest demarcation in the Gazette. Mizoram follows the first demarcation saying it is the only prescription that took into consideration of the Mizo community. On the other side, Assam follows the notification of the second demarcation because of which the dispute has been simmering for decades now. Despite multiple peace agreements to maintain the status quo, differences have prevailed over the years.
 
In perspective
The clashes between the two states date back to nearly a century and a half and both sides accuse each other of encroachment. There is no consensus boundary between the two; therefore, maintaining peace is difficult in the region. The two states should deter from violence as it overshadows the actual cause and rather negotiate for a diplomatic solution. While demarcating, a lot of history, ethnicity and tribal claims were overlooked, because of which the role of the central government is important to settle the problem amicably.

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