On Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute, Where does the Solution Lie?

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Locals along the Assam-Mizoram border say they have been living in fear of livelihood due to the recent clashes in which at least five Assam police personnel were killed and scores injured. A 50-year-old woman from the clash site, Lailapur, who refuses to be identified, said she has been seeing “disturbances on the border since childhood”. “Whenever there are problems, the police come in, discussions go on, but we don’t get the solution. We are tired of this. Hope things will change,” said she, who runs her father’s grocery shop, which has been shut for the last seven days due to skirmishes.

The border between Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long. On February 20, 1987, former Mizoram chief secretary and Mizo Peace Accord signatory Lalkhama had read out the proclamation of statehood of Mizoram at a public meeting organised at Aizawl’s Parade Ground in the presence of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Several dialogues held since 1995 to resolve the dispute yielded a little result. After a massive tussle in 2018, the border row resurfaced in August last year. The matter further escalated in February but was defused after a series of dialogues with the intervention of the Centre.

Subir Bhowmick, a northeast expert and a journalist, said, “The Supreme Court once gave a suggestion of forming a comprehensive north east commission, this should consist of a judge and team of experts who will go and do a thorough research on boundaries. This should be time bound so that people get solace that solution is there and people are working on that. Till then, central force should stay in these areas.”

Another, former vice-chancellor of Assam University, Tapodir Bhattacharjyo, who has been living in Silchar for more than 70 years, said the border row was “unprecedented”. “Both the side are in fear for life and for livelihood. This is something which no one has seen ever seen. We are stunned”. The solution, according to him, lies with the civil society. “The government will do their duty but the society too has a huge role and it’s high time they should act. This problem is not new why can’t civil society talk on this?”

A 19-member all-delegation of Assam assembly, headed by speaker Biswajit Daimary, had decided to visit Delhi and urge the Centre to resolve the issues with Mizoram at the earliest. The speaker also appealed to everyone to remain united to protect Assam’s land and its people. The delegation visited Lailapur near the inter-state border where the firing took place on July 26.

Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga said he wants to resolve the border issue amicably. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that an independent investigation agency was needed to look into the incident.

Meanwhile, on July 31, Nagaland and Assam signed agreements to immediately withdraw their forces from border to de-escalate tension between the states. Sarma tweeted, “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.”.

Assam and Nagaland share a 42 km-long border. The border dispute between the state is nearly six decades old. The last major clash took place in 1985, when 41 people, including 28 Assam policemen, were killed in Merapani.

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