TNS Explainer: What's happening in Assam-Mizoram border and how the feud grows?

Tensions have been escalating in North-East as the sequel of the growing border skirmish between Assam and Mizoram. The border dispute has turned into violence with several fatalities including police officers as both the governments had urged the Union government to intervene in the matter to mitigate the impasse before it gets fueled. The conflict is unprecedented as the border dispute has grimly widened the divide between the neighbours. 

On Monday, the scenes at the borders were distressing after the clashes erupted between the locals and border security forces as the state border has been surfaced with the tensions of encroachments for several decades. The recent border skirmish has heavily disturbed the state's identities and brought the feud to the limelight again. The border has witnessed strong clashes and unrest in a fashion that the Union government had immediately intervened and urged both the state governments to carry out measures to defuse tensions and maintain peace. 

What kills the peace at the Assam-Mizoram border?

Assam and Mizoram share a border that stretches for 164.6 kilometres and though there is little space for a truce for decades, the recent clashes warrant a mutual deliberation to resolve the incessant tensions and to secure a lasting peace between both the states that share a little stretch of the border. The main factor that kills the peace at the border is the claims of 'encroachment'. The clashes at the border have a history with locals and border security forces would indulge in an impasse by accusing each other of encroachment.  

The situation at the border has become long-simmering by the end of this June after the security forces of Assam had allegedly taken over the control over an area known as 'Aitlang Hnar', about 5 km from Vairengte, accusing Mizoram of encroaching on its territory. There were similar incidents last year that drawn more tensions at the border under the claims of encroachment. In October last year, the residents of Assam and Mizoram had clashed twice for a week in which at least eight people were injured and few huts and small shops were blazed.

In October, residents of Lailapur village in Cachar district in Assam had indulged in a clash with the residents near Vairengte in Mizoram's Kolasib district, and some protesters in Assam went on to pelt stones at the Mizoram police personnel and residents by accusing them of encroaching their territory. It has been reported that the border skirmish was seeded by the alleged violation of the agreement signed between both governments some years ago to fix the dispute and sow peace. 

According to reports, both governments had agreed to maintain the status quo in the border area. However, the residents of Lailapur, Assam had broked the status quo and constructed temporary huts at the border. Sparking agitation, the residents from Mizoram had counteracted against what they called an invasion and set fire on the huts constructed by the neighbours. However, Assam claims that the land belongs to them as per the state's records and accused Mizoram of encroaching the territory. 

The history of the border: 

The boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram, which stretches for 165 km today, was demarcated during the colonial era, when Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, was the district in Assam. It remained as the district under the Government of Assam even after the Indian Independence and in 1972, the district was declared a Union territory and was given a more culturally inclusive name Mirozam. Eventually, Mizoram had become a full-fledged state of India in 1986. 

Though Mizoram exercises a separate legislative, the northeastern state has been running in a border dispute with its neighbour Assam. The dispute has resurged several times with dreadful incidents of riots and damaging the properties. Both the states are mutually blaming each other for the border dispute and the shorter intervention from the Union government has kept the peace for a short time and the tensions have been growing after 2015. There was a clash between two states in February 2018, October 2020, and now July 2021, and no potential negotiations were made to completely bury the factors that kill the peace at the border. 

Several leaders from both states had protested against the border demarcation, warranting the need for a new pact before the tensions put the states into mayhem. While blaming Assam, Mizoram is also blaming the immigrants from Bangladesh and claimed that they are stirring the trouble by destroying the huts and encroaching the territory. A similar clash erupted on Monday between the locals and the border security forces and five police personnel from Assam were killed and over 50 people were injured as the sequel of the violence. 

The Superintendent of Police in the Cachar district had also sustained bullet injuries. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that clear evidence is emerging that the Mizoram Police had used Light Machine Guns against the Assam police personnel and he called the incident sad and unfortunate. He also had paid condolences to the families of the five police officers who were killed. Assam further accused Mizoram of building a road destroying a Reserve Forest area in Lailapur and setting up an armed camp. 

However, on the other hand, Mizoram said that violence had started after the police personnel from Assam crossed the border and Mizoram has also claimed that the Assam police had damaged vehicles on the national highway and opened fire on its police personnel. The mutual blaming had fueled the tensions and the Assam Chief Minister and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga had clashed on Twitter and posting videos of violence and urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah's intervention. 

Amit Shah has spoken to the Chief Ministers of Assam and Mizoram and urged them to ensure peace along the disrupted border and work out for an amicable settlement. The violence has come two days after Amit Shah held talks with the Chief Ministers of eight northeastern states during which he highlighted the need to resolve the border disputes. The reports say that two companies of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) were deployed at Lailapur- Vairengte areas where the violence erupted and the police force assert that the situation has come under control at present.