Guwahati:Six policemen from Assam died and 80 others, including officials, were injured last Monday (July 26) in one of the worst clashes revolving around the eight decades-old boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram as the age-old territorial dispute in the country's northeast turned deadly.
Tensions on the border between Assam and Mizoram have escalated since June, when Assam's police allegedly took control of the hilly area of Lailapur, accusing Mizoram of encroaching on the territory. Officials from both sides, including chief ministers, have accused each other of provoking the violence.
Although there has been no fresh violence, tensions continue. There had been an impasse, with both states positioningtheir forces at the border, along with the CAPF - neither ready to back down.
The Assam-Mizoram boundary dispute became a full-blown crisis on Friday when Assam summoned six officials of Mizoram's Kolasib district and sent police after the state's lone Rajya Sabha MP. Mizoram retaliated by disclosing that police of Kolasib district — - it borders Assam's Cachar district and its SP is among the six summoned by Assam - — had lodged an FIR on July 26, the day of the incident, against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and six officials.
For the first time since the clashes along the Assam-Mizoram border almost a week ago, Chief Ministers of the two states sought to dial down the tensions between their people and security personnel on Sunday.
While the Mizoram government said it would withdraw the FIR filed against Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Assam CM tweeted on Monday that he has directed the police to withdraw the FIR against K Vanlalvena, the Rajya Sabha MP from Mizoram who had allegedly made "threatening statements" about the border violence issue.
The Chief Ministers of both states sought to ease tension along their troubled inter-State border after a telephonic discussion with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, according to reports on Sunday.
Earlier, following the violence, the advisory issued by Assam cited "personal safety" as the main reason and asked Assamese people who live in Mizoram to "exercise utmost caution". The violence follows months of tension over a long-standing border dispute. The federal government has been trying to mediate a truce between the states since 1994.
There have been many violent clashes in the past in connection with the Assam-Mizoram border dispute including a major one that occurred in October 2020. The history of these clashes dates back to 1972, when Mizoram was carved out of Assam as Union Territory resulting in a border dispute. There have been several rounds of talks between the two States since 1995, but none of them succeeded in resolving the issue.
Mizoram and Assam, along with five other states, are in the north-east region of India, which runs from the snow-clad Himalayas just below Tibet to the plains of Bangladesh, and borders the jungles of Myanmar (Burma) to the east.
Under colonial rule, Lushai Hills, as Mizoram was then known, was part of Assam. The region only gained recognition in 1972 - almost three decades after India's independence - when it became a separate federally administered area. In 1987, it became a fully-fledged state.
Three districts in Assam - Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj - share a 164km-long border with three districts of Mizoram. The forested area is contested at several points, with both Assam and Mizoram accusing each other of encroaching on their land.
The first row broke out in 1994, leading to several rounds of talks that were brokered by the federal government. But sporadic clashes have continued.
Tensions escalated to an unprecedented level in October 2020 when residents of Assam and Mizoram clashed twice in a week. At least eight people were injured as angry residents torched huts and small shops on both sides.
At the heart of the matter was an "eviction drive" carried out by Assam along a contested part of the border - authorities from the state reportedly burned a farmhouse and crops in the area. The Mizoram government responded by deploying troops in areas which Assam claims is part of its territory.
Residents from both states also blocked key highways, bringing all traffic to a halt for almost three weeks until the federal government intervened to defuse tensions.Boundary demarcations in 1875 and 1933, particularly the second one, are at the heart of the dispute. The 1875 demarcation, notified on August 20 that year, derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873. It differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar in Assam's Barak Valley. This was done in consultation with Mizo chiefs, and it became the basis for the Inner Line Reserve Forest demarcation in the Gazette two years later.
The 1933 demarcation marks a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur, beginning at the tri-junction of Lushai Hills, Cachar district and Manipur. The Mizos do not accept this demarcation on the ground that their chiefs were not consulted this time. According to Mizo leaders, the only acceptable boundary is the Inner Line of 1875 on the southern frontier of Cachar, notified as per the BEFR Act.
While Assam sees its claimed boundary as transgressed, Mizoram cites unilateral moves by Assam inside Mizoram territory
What happened this time?
Tensions escalated after clashes erupted between police on either side of a contentious border point, Lailapur, according to local reports.
Assam's chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, announced on Twitter that members of the state police were killed by Mizoram forces "while defending the constitutional boundary".
Police in Assam also alleged that "miscreants" from Mizoram pelted them with stones and attacked government officials.
But authorities in Mizoram denied this.The state's home minister, Lalchamliana, said Mizoram policemen responded "spontaneously by firing back" at Assam police officials, after they "forcibly crossed" a post manned by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The federal government has deployed the CRPF as a "neutral force" at the disputed border.
Meanwhile, Sarma and Mizoram's chief minister, Zoramthanga, argued on Twitter, blaming each other for the violence and seeking the federal government's intervention.
Both chief ministers had attended a meeting chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah in the city of Shillong on July 24.
On July 26, Monday, Shah reportedly spoke to Zoramthanga and Sarma, and urged them to find an "amicable solution".