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Explained: Why the Assam-Mizoram Border Has Become a Flashpoint

The conflict-ridden history of the tenuous Assam-Mizoram border dates back to the British era.

Updated
Explainers
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>The 164.6 km long inter-state Assam-Mizoram border has become a flashpoint in the recent years.</p></div>
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Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj

Video Input: Anjana Dutta

The recent clashes at the Assam-Mizoram border that resulted in the death of five Assam police personnel on Monday, 26 June, came as a corollary of the long-drawn dissension between the two states over their boundary.

The 164.6 km long border that runs between the two states has again become a flashpoint in the recent years, with several instances of violence being reported in the region.

The conflict-ridden history of this tenuous border, lined by the Barak Valley – Cachar, Hailakandi, and Karimganj on the Assam side, and Kolasib, Aizawl, and Mamit on the Mizoram side, dates back to the Colonial era.

Explained: Why the Assam-Mizoram Border Has Become a Flashpoint

  1. 1. What's the History Behind the Border Demarcation?

    A notification issued by the British administration in 1875 had, for the first time, stipulated a clear demarcation between the Cachar plains (which lie in present-day Assam) and Lushai Hills, which later came to be known as Mizoram.

    In 1933, another notification released by the British government, marked the separation between the Lushai Hills and Manipur, which indicated that the Manipur border began from the tripoint of Lushai Hills, Assam's Cachar district and Manipur.

    Mizoram, which broke off from Assam in 1972 to become a Union Territory and went on to attain full statehood in 1987, follows the 1875 notification, claiming that it is the only prescription that took into account the position of the Mizo community.

    A Mizoram minister had told The Indian Express in 2020 that the state believes in the border stipulated by the 1875 notification, which was an upshot of the Bengal Eastern Fronter Regulation (BERF) Act of 1873 (also known as the Inner Line Regulation).

    Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) President B Vanlaltana indicated that the Assam government, on the other hand, follows the demarcation notified in 1933, thereby leading to discord.

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  2. 2. When did the Skirmishes Begin?

    Since the assumption of autonomous statehood by Mizoram in 1987, the dispute over the inter-state border has sporadically given rise to skirmishes along the conflicted region.

    The differences between the states on the matter continue to prevail, despite peace talks that have been negotiated on certain occasions in the past.

    "Mizoram is a non-land record state in terms of Land Record Management," the Land Revenue and Settlement Department of Mizoram states on its official website.

    "Significant developments have taken place since Mizoram attained statehood in 1987 in the implementation of Land Reforms Programme and Land Revenue Administration. The absence of correct and up-to-date land records of villages and towns has injured the interests of numerous land owners, the bulk of whom are led to unavoidable land disputes and thwarted the implementation of Land Reform Programmes."
    Land Revenue and Settlement Department, Mizoram
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  3. 3. What's the Agreement Between the Two States?

    According to an agreement between the two states, status quo has to be maintained on the no man's land in the border area, Mizoram Minister Lalthangliana had told The Indian Express.

    However, a breach of this pact has been observed on various occasions in the past few years – leading to turbulence.

    • In October 2020, a scuffle had ensued in the conflicted territory after a group of people from the Mizoram side of the border torched some huts made by residents of Assam's Lailapur village on a disputed portion of the border between the two states, reported EastMojo.

      In Mizoram, Kolasib Deputy Commissioner H Lalthlangliana said that seven Mizo civilians were injured in the incident after attacks on Mizoram security personnel by the villagers of Assam's Lailapur.

    • In the same month, in another incident of land dispute, a farmhouse owned by a Mamit district resident was burnt down by some officials from Assam's Karimganj, Eastmojo had reported.

      The Assam and Mizoram administrations had subsequently agreed to settle the ongoing border conflict and establish close coordination to avert future conflicts, reported Eastmojo.

    • In February 2018, tensions had flared up in the region after a wooden resthouse erected by the MZP in the reserved forest area between Assam's Hailakandi and Mizoram's Kolasib was torn down by Assam police, with the state claiming the land underneath the construction as its own.

      Following the incident, both governments had assured the Centre that they would not permit the assembly of people at the site of contention and would maintain status quo in the area.

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  4. 4. What Happend on 26 July?

    Five policemen were reported to have been killed and over 50 persons injured in the violent clashes that erupted around the Assam-Mizoram border on Monday, 26 July, a press release issued by the Assam government read.

    The Assam government said that in a breach of the existing agreements, the Mizoram government had begun the construction of a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam, destroying the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Lailapur area.

    The Mizoram government, on the other hand, claimed that 200 Assam Police personnel had forced their way past a post defended by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as well as the Mizoram Police and damaged vehicles on the National Highway.

    The tension along the border was fuelled by another incident that took place in June this year, when Assam police allegedly seized Mizoram's Aitlang hnar.

    While Mizoram accused Assam of encroaching upon its territory, the neighbouring state accused Mizoram of building structures and planting betel nut and banana saplings allegedly 10 kilometers inside its Hailakandi district, news agency PTI reported.

    Mizoram Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte told PTI that both the states forces are now camping around the border, and have been warned that a serious confrontation could take place at any time if either side tried to make any advances.

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  5. 5. How Is the 26 July Incident Being tackled?

    The ongoing border conflict was discussed in a meeting chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah as recently as Saturday, 24 July, where the chief ministers of both the states were present.

    Following the clashes on Monday, Shah spoke to the chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram over the phone, and asked them to ensure peaceful resolution of the dispute, PTI reported.

    Both chief ministers assured the home minister, asserting their commitment to ensuring peace and resolving the border issue amicably.

    The Mizoram government also set up a boundary commission to address the contentious matter of the inter-state border, a government notification issued on 22 July indicated. The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Tawnluia, will consider the various aspects relating to the Mizoram-Assam border EastMojo reported.

    (With inputs from PTI, The Indian Express and Eastmojo)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What's the History Behind the Border Demarcation?

A notification issued by the British administration in 1875 had, for the first time, stipulated a clear demarcation between the Cachar plains (which lie in present-day Assam) and Lushai Hills, which later came to be known as Mizoram.

In 1933, another notification released by the British government, marked the separation between the Lushai Hills and Manipur, which indicated that the Manipur border began from the tripoint of Lushai Hills, Assam's Cachar district and Manipur.

Mizoram, which broke off from Assam in 1972 to become a Union Territory and went on to attain full statehood in 1987, follows the 1875 notification, claiming that it is the only prescription that took into account the position of the Mizo community.

A Mizoram minister had told The Indian Express in 2020 that the state believes in the border stipulated by the 1875 notification, which was an upshot of the Bengal Eastern Fronter Regulation (BERF) Act of 1873 (also known as the Inner Line Regulation).

Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) President B Vanlaltana indicated that the Assam government, on the other hand, follows the demarcation notified in 1933, thereby leading to discord.

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When did the Skirmishes Begin?

Since the assumption of autonomous statehood by Mizoram in 1987, the dispute over the inter-state border has sporadically given rise to skirmishes along the conflicted region.

The differences between the states on the matter continue to prevail, despite peace talks that have been negotiated on certain occasions in the past.

"Mizoram is a non-land record state in terms of Land Record Management," the Land Revenue and Settlement Department of Mizoram states on its official website.

"Significant developments have taken place since Mizoram attained statehood in 1987 in the implementation of Land Reforms Programme and Land Revenue Administration. The absence of correct and up-to-date land records of villages and towns has injured the interests of numerous land owners, the bulk of whom are led to unavoidable land disputes and thwarted the implementation of Land Reform Programmes."
Land Revenue and Settlement Department, Mizoram

What's the Agreement Between the Two States?

According to an agreement between the two states, status quo has to be maintained on the no man's land in the border area, Mizoram Minister Lalthangliana had told The Indian Express.

However, a breach of this pact has been observed on various occasions in the past few years – leading to turbulence.

  • In October 2020, a scuffle had ensued in the conflicted territory after a group of people from the Mizoram side of the border torched some huts made by residents of Assam's Lailapur village on a disputed portion of the border between the two states, reported EastMojo.

    In Mizoram, Kolasib Deputy Commissioner H Lalthlangliana said that seven Mizo civilians were injured in the incident after attacks on Mizoram security personnel by the villagers of Assam's Lailapur.

  • In the same month, in another incident of land dispute, a farmhouse owned by a Mamit district resident was burnt down by some officials from Assam's Karimganj, Eastmojo had reported.

    The Assam and Mizoram administrations had subsequently agreed to settle the ongoing border conflict and establish close coordination to avert future conflicts, reported Eastmojo.

  • In February 2018, tensions had flared up in the region after a wooden resthouse erected by the MZP in the reserved forest area between Assam's Hailakandi and Mizoram's Kolasib was torn down by Assam police, with the state claiming the land underneath the construction as its own.

    Following the incident, both governments had assured the Centre that they would not permit the assembly of people at the site of contention and would maintain status quo in the area.

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What Happend on 26 July?

Five policemen were reported to have been killed and over 50 persons injured in the violent clashes that erupted around the Assam-Mizoram border on Monday, 26 July, a press release issued by the Assam government read.

The Assam government said that in a breach of the existing agreements, the Mizoram government had begun the construction of a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam, destroying the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Lailapur area.

The Mizoram government, on the other hand, claimed that 200 Assam Police personnel had forced their way past a post defended by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as well as the Mizoram Police and damaged vehicles on the National Highway.

The tension along the border was fuelled by another incident that took place in June this year, when Assam police allegedly seized Mizoram's Aitlang hnar.

While Mizoram accused Assam of encroaching upon its territory, the neighbouring state accused Mizoram of building structures and planting betel nut and banana saplings allegedly 10 kilometers inside its Hailakandi district, news agency PTI reported.

Mizoram Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte told PTI that both the states forces are now camping around the border, and have been warned that a serious confrontation could take place at any time if either side tried to make any advances.

How Is the 26 July Incident Being tackled?

The ongoing border conflict was discussed in a meeting chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah as recently as Saturday, 24 July, where the chief ministers of both the states were present.

Following the clashes on Monday, Shah spoke to the chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram over the phone, and asked them to ensure peaceful resolution of the dispute, PTI reported.

Both chief ministers assured the home minister, asserting their commitment to ensuring peace and resolving the border issue amicably.

The Mizoram government also set up a boundary commission to address the contentious matter of the inter-state border, a government notification issued on 22 July indicated. The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Tawnluia, will consider the various aspects relating to the Mizoram-Assam border EastMojo reported.

(With inputs from PTI, The Indian Express and Eastmojo)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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