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Is Assam-Mizoram conflict rare in Northeastern India?

  • Published at 04:35 pm July 28th, 2021
Assam Border Clash
Assam deployed 4,000 commandos to guard its border with Mizoram after six police officers were killed in a gunbattle between the feuding neighbours NDTV Twitter

Assam is facing a border dispute with Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, while Tripura and Mizoram too have been facing similar issues for long

As three days of an immensely tense situation have passed in the Indian states of Assam and Mizoram, much is being discussed about the totally unexpected event that left six policemen killed.  

Now the question arises: is it the first time such a border row has popped up in that part of India? No, definitely not— that is the most common and factual answer.

There were also reports of skirmishes at the Assam-Meghalaya border on the outskirts of Guwahati on Monday when the Assam-Mizoram clashes erupted, according to a Deccan Herald article.

The Assam-Mizoram border brawl took place just two days after Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, meeting chief ministers (CMs) of the Northeastern states, stressed that the border conflicts be resolved amicably before 2022 when India celebrates 75 years of Independence.

“Seven Sisters”, as the Northeastern states are referred to, are often found fighting on their inter-state borders, like the latest one on the Assam-Mizoram border which left more than 60 others injured too.

Specifically, Assam is facing a border dispute with Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, while Tripura and Mizoram too have been facing similar issues for long.

For instance, the boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram dates back nearly a century and a half, reports The Indian Express.

Even though the dispute has rarely culminated in violence, Monday’s unrest escalated to such an unprecedented level that firing on the inter-state boundary caused the casualties.

The latest crisis is an outcome of tensions that kept deepening between the two states since last month when Mizoram alleged that Assam had encroached on its territory.

Assam in turn accused Mizoram villagers of encroaching instead on reserve forest land.

Officials from both sides, including CMs, trade blame for violence being provoked.

In a rather violent clash with Nagaland back in mid-2014, at least 20 people died in the bordering town of Golaghat. Curfew had to be imposed in the town.

Tension on Assam-Nagaland border is also often witnessed even as a petition is pending in the Supreme Court.

The land dispute between Assam and Nagaland has resulted in brutal skirmishes for decades. Before the 2014 violence, there were two major incidents in 1979 and 1985, resulting in over 100 fatalities.

The Assam-Nagaland border row was ignited on December 1, 1963, when Nagaland was officially declared a state. The states share a 434 kilometre border. In all, about 66,000 hectares of land are in dispute between the states.

The origin of the disputes regarding the borders dates back to the pre-Independence era and even till 1972, when Meghalaya and Mizoram were carved out of Assam. Mizoram first became a Union Territory and was made a full-fledged state in 1986.

Arunachal Pradesh became a state in 1987, the last among the 'seven sisters', and saw the first clashes with Assam d in 1992.

With Meghalaya, Assam shares a boundary of 884 km. There has been a series of recent flare-ups there too. The Assam and Meghalaya CMs met on July 23 and pledged to make extra efforts to take the border issue from the status quo towards a permanent solution. There are 12 areas of conflict between the two states.

The Northeast remained untouched during the reorganisation of the states and territories along linguistic lines, which, according to experts, made the situation more complex.

The disputes became acute due to conflicting border claims by the states and the Centre's inability to convince the states to accept the boundaries.

Assam insists that the boundaries marked after independence be maintained, while states like Nagaland and Mizoram stress "historical boundaries" dating before it.

Mizoram demands that the 164.6 km border with Assam be decided based on Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1875.