The violent clash that erupted along the Assam-Mizoram border area at Lailapur on July 26 left everyone shocked.
This border dispute is going on since 1987—the year when Mizoram attained full statehood.
To understand this long-standing complicated issue we need to go back to history. In 1873, the British scripted Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR).
This regulation was framed to demarcate the boundaries between Assam and Mizoram. On paper, everything seems hunky dory but in reality the issue is much more complicated because Assam refused to accept this 1873 regulation.
Prior to 1987, Mizoram was a part of Assam and at that point in time there was no border dispute. On February 28, 1966 a violent movement was started by Mizos.
With a view to cooling down the surcharged atmosphere, the central government decided to declare Mizoram as a union territory.
Finally, Delhi decided to give full statehood to Mizoram in 1987. Though it was thought dust will settle down, the volatile situation remained unchanged.
The violent clash on Monday last stands testimony to the observation made above. Northeast is a complicated region and it can’t be understood in one go.
The intricacies run deep and it demands political acumen to sort out these existing issues else July 26 like incidents will continue to recur.
Following the attainment of full statehood the boundary dispute between these two neighbouring states began taking an ugly turn.
In a bid to solve the boundary dispute two demarcations were made — one in 1875 and the second one in 1933.
Ironically Mizoram accepts the 1875 demarcation but refuses to accept the 1933 demarcation.
On the contrary, Assam accepts 1933 demarcation and refuses to accept the 1875 demarcation.
The 1933 demarcation clearly stated that all issues related to the existing boundary dispute will be settled as per 1875 regulation.
Everything was fine in this notification. But one aspect of 1933 regulation didn’t go down well with Mizoram.
The 1875 demarcation had the support of Mizo leaders because they gave their nod to the separation of Lushai hills with Cachar.
However, this status quo changed following the notification of 1933 demarcation. It included Manipur as the third party and this was not acceptable to the Mizos.
The Mizo leaders alleged that they were kept in the dark and Assam unilaterally notified this demarcation.
Assam government gives importance to the 1933 demarcation and accordingly Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi are a part of Assam.
All these districts in Barak Valley share a border with the three districts of Mizoram — Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl.
On the other hand, both the states are also having river disputes.
In this context mention can be made about the river dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra.
When Karnataka attained full statehood it claimed Belgaum to be its own.
Maharashtra too considered Belgaum to be its own. Each time Centre has to intervene to settle the scores between these two states.
Moreover, the Northeast Reorganisation Act of 1971 also contributed to the ongoing border dispute between Assam and Mizoram.
When the 1971 NE Reorganisation Act was ratified in Parliament many protesting voices were heard. Both Manipur and Tripura witnessed many changes in their respective territories.
The dispute between Assam and Mizoram cannot be looked at from the prism of either boundaries or rivers.
There is a psychological angle to this dispute as well.
Both the states feel that their natural resources are at stake, whereas economically both Assam and Mizoram are dependent on each other.
The situation could go out of control if the Centre fails to rise up to the occasion. Today a different scenario is being seen.
Mizo National Front (MNF) is now ruling in Mizoram and is one of the constituents in the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) — an offshoot of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The incumbent Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is the convenor of NEDA. If this border dispute can’t be settled now, in the near future it is unlikely to be settled. Hopefully, peace will prevail in the Assam-Mizoram border.