Boundary issues between Assam and Mizoram

Context: Residents of Assam and Mizoram have clashed twice over territory, injuring at least eight people and set fire to a few huts and small shops.

What were the recent clashes about?

  • Residents of Lailapur village in Assam’s Cachar district clashed with residents of localities near Vairengte in Mizoram’s Kolasib district.
  • According to an agreement between governments of Assam and Mizoram some years ago, status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
  • People from Lailapur broke the status quo and allegedly constructed some temporary huts, in response people from Mizoram side went and set fire on them.
  • The Karimganj DC, said that even if the disputed land was historically cultivated by Mizoram residents, on paper it fell within the Singla Forest Reserve that is under Karimganj’s authority.
  • Mizoram civil society groups blame “illegal Bangladeshis” on the Assam side who came and destroyed huts, cut plants and pelted stones on policemen.

How complex is the boundary dispute?

  • The boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long and it dates back to the colonial era, when Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, a district of Assam.
  • The dispute branched from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that draws a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be drawn 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 argued against the demarcation notified in 1933 because Mizo society was not consulted and the Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation. This was the point of conflict.
  • The last time the boundary saw violence was in February 2018 when the MZP had built a wooden rest house in a forest for farmers and Assam police with the forest department officials demolished it saying this was in Assam territory.

What are the other boundary issues in the Northeast?

  • During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate state one by one. Today, Assam has boundary problems with each of them.
  • According to a 2008 research paper from the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.
  • In two major incidents of violence in 1979 and 1985, at least 100 persons were killed and the boundary dispute is now in the Supreme Court. Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam.
  • Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary (over 800 km), clashes were first reported in 1992, according to research paper from the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
  • There have been several charges of illegal intrusion from both sides, and recurrent clashes. This boundary issue is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
  • The 884-km Assam-Meghalaya boundary faces clashes as well. There are 12 areas of dispute between the two states according to Meghalaya government.
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