Assam-Mizoram border dispute

On July 11, 2021, two grenade explosions occurred in Cachar district in Assam near Mizoram border, targeting construction workers. This attack was followed by counter attack from the people of Assam. The main reason appears to be the infamous, unrelenting Assam-Mizoram border dispute.

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The Assam-Mizoram border dispute, one of the many state border disputes in India, dates back to the colonial era when several state boundaries were demarcated to suit the British administrative needs. The states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh were earlier collectively known as the ‘Greater Assam’. The regional and cultural diversity in this large state was the cause of internal conflict in the state. Also keeping in mind the 1962 border dispute with China, the division of state was essential for national integrity as well as internal peace.

So, the state of Assam was disintegrated to form Arunachal Pradesh(union territory in 1972 and upgraded to a state in 1987) , Nagaland(1987), Meghalaya(1972) , Mizoram(UT-1972 and state-1987) . However, Britishers passed two notifications- 1. The notification of 1875- Defines the boundary between Lushai Hills(present day Mizoram) and Cachar Hills 2. The notification of 1933- Defines the boundary between Lushai hills and Manipur, And thus, when the state of Mizoram was formed, the conflict between Mizoram and Assam started. The state of Assam and Mizoram share a 164 km (approx.) border between Cachar, Hailkandi and Karimganj districts of Assam and Kolasib, Mamit and Aizwal district of Mizoram. Both sides follow a natural border(those of mountains). While disintegrating Assam, the government did not pay due attention to the Tribal realities and ethnic composition. Hence, there continues to be a considerable population of Mizos and Nagas in the Cachar Hills, making it possible for both Mizoram and Nagaland to claim these territories in Assam. Also, the people of Mizoram follow the 1875 notification(they believe the Mizo community was not consulted before issuing the notification) and those of Assam follow the 1933 notification.

This is a long unresolved dispute and its high time that it be solved. Amidst this raging pandemic and its socio-economic implications and growing international tensions, the central government has already got a lot in its plate and dumping these inter-state disputes upon the central government in such times of crisis in no wise move on anybody’s part. And so, the states must themselves come together for a peace negotiation as early as possible or otherwise accept a third party intervention. Or, the central government should revive the inter-state council or set up a zonal council to effectively address these disputes. With the NDA government in power in all these states as well the center, a political solution seems a relatively lucrative option. With growing concerns of Chinese developments amongst several Asian countries, addressing disputes of states that are bound to face Chinese interference via its BRI near India’s North-east becomes all the more important.