- GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.
Assam-Mizoram border dispute
Context: Recently, at least five Assam Police personnel were killed after the old boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram exploded in violent clashes at a contested border point.
- In October last year, residents of Assam and Mizoram had clashed twice in the space of a week over territory, in which at least eight people were injured.
- The violence spotlights the long-standing inter-state boundary issues in the Northeast, particularly between Assam and the states that were carved out of it.
What is the genesis of Assam-Mizoram boundary dispute?
- The boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram, 165 km long today, dates back to the colonial era, when 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, and another of 1933, that demarcates a boundary between the Lushai Hills and Manipur.
- Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
- Mizo leaders have argued in the past against the demarcation notified in 1933 because Mizo society was not consulted.
- Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation, and that was the point of conflict.
- According to an agreement between Mizoram and Assam, status quo was to be maintained in the no man’s land in the border area.
- In February 2018, there was violence when students’ union MZP (Mizo Zirlai Pawl) built a wooden rest house for farmers on land that was claimed by Assam and which was demolished by Assam Police.
- Again, in October 2020, clashes erupted twice in a week over construction of huts in Lailapur (Assam) on land claimed by Mizoram.
Are there other boundary issues in the northeast?
Assam has had boundary problems with all its north-eastern neighbours, except Manipur and Tripura that had existed as separate entities.
- State Reorganisation Post Independence: The primary reason is that the other States, which were all part of Assam during the British rule, have contested the boundaries since they separated from Assam and became full-fledged States over a period of time (Nagaland Statehood in 1963; Meghalaya, Tripura & Manipur Statehood in 1971; Arunachal Pradesh & Mizoram Statehood in 1987)
- Constitutional Solution Vs Historical grounds: Assam has accepted several recommendations of border commissions set up by the Supreme Court, but other States have been sticking to “historical boundaries” that go back to the period before 1826, when the British annexed undivided Assam and included the hills as its provinces.
- Issue of Nagaland: The Nagaland government has been insisting that a 16-point agreement of 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland, also included “restoration” of all Naga territories that had been transferred out of the Naga Hills after the British annexed Assam in 1826.
- Issue of Meghalaya: Meghalaya has challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act of 1971, claiming that two blocks in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district belonged to the erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills created in 1835.
- Assam’s point of view: Assam says its neighbours have encroached upon more than 75,000 hectares of land. Revenue records of the Assam government say Nagaland has encroached upon 19,819.62 hectares, Arunachal Pradesh 5,756.02 hectares and Meghalaya 65.62 hectares since 2001.
- Burden borne by common man: The border residents will continue to bear the brunt of the unrest unless an acceptable solution is arrived at.
- Joint patrolling by police personnel of both the States with Central forces along the inter-State border.
- Maintaining Peace & Order: Apart from drawing up the standard operating procedure for guarding the contentious boundary, state governments need to strengthen coordination between the Superintendents of Police of the border districts for prompt action against criminals and anti-social activities that add to the border tension.
Connecting the dots: