The recent clash on the Assam-Mizoram border dispute underlines the differences the two States have had since 1972.
- The boundary dispute between the two states has been simmering since the formation of Mizoram as a separate state in the 1980s.
- The two states have been locked in a boundary dispute for a long time, with Assam accepting the boundary defined by a 1933 notification and Mizoram sticking to an earlier demarcation drawn up in 1875.
- 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. However, clashes have erupted from time to time over the issue.
- Festering since October 9, the situation along the 164.6-km Assam-Mizoram border took an ugly turn on October 17 with around 20 shops and houses being burnt and over 50 people injured in clashes.
- The Central Government has been trying to solve the dispute, but with little success.
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 is the dispute?
- Mizoram shares a 123-km border with southern Assam and has been claiming a 509-square mile stretch “occupied” by the neighbouring State.
- Mizoram used to be the Lushai Hills district of Assam before being made a Union Territory in 1972 and a State in 1987.
- Both States have been disputing an extensive stretch of this boundary.
The Cachar-Mizoram boundary
- The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, provided for the establishment of the states of Manipur and Tripura and the formation of Meghalaya.
- It also provided for the formation of the Union Territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh — by the reorganization of the existing state of Assam.
- Barak Valley, comprising the Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, is the southernmost tip of Assam.
- Cachar is surrounded on three sides by the hill ranges of Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya, and also shares an international boundary, spread across the Barak Valley region, with Bangladesh.
- Mizoram was earlier a part of undivided Assam. The Mizos are an indigenous minority group in Northeast that continues to seek protection of rights and privileges under the Indian Constitution.
- The signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord in June 1986, between the Government of India and the Mizo National Front (MNF), ended the 20-year-old insurgency by the Mizos, and led Mizoram to acquire statehood.
- However, boundary issues that remained suppressed earlier became a border dispute after the separation.
- The boundary between Mizoram and Assam follows naturally occurring barriers of hills, valleys, rivers and forests, and both sides have attributed border skirmishes to perceptional differences over an imaginary line.
- Villagers in Mizoram and Assam, not fully aware of the boundary demarcation, would often cross over to either side for various purposes.
Other Boundary Issues in Northeast:
- During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate states one by one.
- Currently, Assam has boundary problems with each of them.
- Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam.
- It achieved statehood in December 1963 and was formed out of the Naga Hills district of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (then North-East Frontier Agency).
- Violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.
- The boundary dispute is in the Supreme Court.
B. Assam-Arunachal Pradesh:
- Both states have a boundary of over 800 km.
- Arunachal Pradesh was granted statehood by the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 in 1987.
- Clashes were first reported in 1992 and since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes.
- This boundary issue is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
- The 884-km boundary between the two states also witnesses flare-ups.
- Meghalaya came into existence as an autonomous state within the state of Assam in April 1970 comprising the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Garo Hills districts. In 1972, it got statehood.
- As per Meghalaya government statements, today there are 12 areas of dispute between the two states.
About Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation
- The Inner Line Regulations, commonly referred to as the Inner Line Permit system (ILP), first gained legal effect through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
- At present the BEFR continues to apply, but only in present-day Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- It had been lifted in the whole of Assam, as well as the entirety of present-day Meghalaya.
- The BEFR allows Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland not to let non-resident Indians in without an inner-line permit for a temporary stay.
Present status of ILP
- The Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 is the modern embodiment of the ILP.
- This Order was passed in furtherance of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
- The Order defined the ‘inner line’ throughout present-day India starting from Jammu and Kashmir and ending at Mizoram.
- This inner line is different from the one envisioned in the Bengal Frontier Regulations.
- This line represents the furthest point up to the international border where a foreigner can visit on the strength of a visa alone.
- The Centre’s attempts to resolve the dispute through commissions – the KVK Sundaram Commission in 1971 and then the Shastri Commission in 1985 – failed.
- Assam then moved the Supreme Court seeking a permanent injunction restraining Nagaland from encroaching upon its land.
Source: The Hindu