Ahom-Mizo Conflict

Factors Complicating Ahom-Mizo Relations

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The shared border between Assam and Mizoram is a heavily-forested and hilly region of about 165 kilometers. These two states have, over the decades since Independence, engaged in recurrent disputes of respective ownership over 1318 sq kilometres of land that is part of that border. Recently, matters came to a head, on 26th July 2021, when armed police on both sides of the border became embroiled in violent clashes with either side firing at each other, leading to the deaths of seven people – six of them Assamese policemen – and 60 injured. In the Mizoram border town of Vairengte, officials claimed that 200 Assamese policemen trespassed into their police border outposts. In reprisal, 20 of the evicted policemen were assisted by locals to retaliate from positions in the surrounding hills. In what felt “like a war between two countries” according to several villagers, Mizos also torched down the buses transporting the Assamese policemen to the border and attacked the locals who were supporting the policemen in the operation. Both states have recorded murder charges against senior police officials on either side, and Assam has cautioned locals against travelling to Mizoram. Mizoram is also alleging that Assam – on whom it depends for medical supplies amidst the raging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – has been subjecting it to an economic blockade and halting the movement of trucks carrying lifesaving drugs, oxygen cylinders and testing kits along NH306 in what they’ve termed an “inhuman” display of animosity. Though both states are ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party governments and are part of the Northeast Democratic Alliance, these border skirmishes belong to a long and uneasy legacy which seems to be unimpeded even by complementary state governments on either side.

The purpose of this article is to analyze the Ahom-Mizo conflict from a historical perspective. In aid of this, it will first explore who the Mizo people and the Ahom people are. Second, it will examine the contentious history of these states before and after Independence in order to comprehend how the actions of the colonial British government and the successive notifications of 1875 and 1933, as well as those of the government of independent India, have led to the formation of Mizoram as a separate state with fluid and complicated borders. Third, it will consider the main factors that have caused the coalescing of this conflict, which include issues of Inner Line Regulations and artificial differentiations, illegal entry of Bangladeshi immigrants and flow of drugs. Fourth, it will scrutinize the various skirmishes that have occurred along the border in the recent years to understand what led to this explosion of hostilities in July 2021. Finally, it will summarize the initiatives and decisions taken by the governments on either side to establish a somewhat durable but still fragile peace.

Who are the Mizo people? Who are the Ahom people?

The Mizo people are an indigenous ethnic group endemic to Mizoram. Though it is an umbrella term that consolidates several tribes and clans under itself, in general, it consists of people who speak the native Zomi-Chin-Kuki-Mizo languages and share the common history of having descended from the Zo people, thus also sharing several commonalities with the Chin people of Myanmar. Indeed, the only reason the Mizo and Chin people are separated now is less because of differences in identity and more because of the colonial policy of arbitrarily drawing international borders for administrative ease. MizoThe Mizos are also an imagined ethnic community as all the comprising tribes and clans believe in a single myth of origin – that they were born out of the Sinlung, enclosed within rock. For historians however, Mizos were a part of the great exodus of Mongolians from China to western Myanmar from the 7th centuries onwards, who eventually settled in north-eastern India. Among the Mizo, there are five major tribes – Lushei, Ralte, Hmar, Paihte and Pawi who have maintained their linguistic particularities while the other 11 minor tribes have assimilated into these groups. Due to a wave of missionary activities across the northeast in the 19th century and colonial legislations like the Assam-Lushai District (Acquisition of Chief’s Rights) Act, similar to Nagaland and Manipur, the majority of Mizos are Christian by faith. The Mizo people’s historical source of livelihood is the slash-and-burn or ‘Jhum cultivation’ which they practise in the surrounding forests, and indeed base their traditions and festivals on. In the opinion of anthropologists, Mizos are a generally close-knit society with few divisions in class, race, caste or sex.

The Tai-Ahom or the Ahom are a tight-knit ethnic group indigenous to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Originally thought to have descended from the Tai tribes that arrived into the Brahmaputra valley in Assam and intermarried with the local indigenous people of the region, the Ahom people established a kingdom that controlled much of Assam for several decades. The Ahom kingdom was established by Sukaphaa in 1228 CE and continued till 1826 CE. The culture of the Tai-Ahom people is a syncretism of several local cultures that were assimilated during the Ahom rule included the original Tai, the Tibeto-Burman, the Borahis and the other miscellaneous tribes and clans that were socialized into the Ahom way of society and polity through an integrationist-assimilationist process known as Ahomization. AhomThough the Ahom eventually was formed of an admixture of several ethnicities, the Ahom language specifically as well as the traditional tribal religion was practised until the 17th century, after which the Ahom people and all others subsumed under them accepted Assamese as the local language with various dialects. In general, the Ahom inhabit areas in Upper Assam, including Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur and Dhemaji. However, several have also migrated to Lower Assam where the border of the state meets neighbouring Mizoram. Like Mizoram, the primary source of livelihood for the Ahom people has also been mountainous agriculture, traditionally known as Ban-Mong which is an interdependent politico-social and economic system formed out of communities that settle on the banks of the rivers, and cultivate the land through sophisticated methods of irrigation. After the aggressive Sanskritization undertaken under the reign of Suremphaa Rajeswar Singha, most Ahoms practise Hinduism though there has been some effort to revive the traditional pagan Ahom religion as well.

Ahom-Mizo Conflict Pre-Independence

In the opinion of Sanjib Baruah, the present heavily contentious border demarcations in the Northeast – a region enmeshed between Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tibet and Bhutan – arose “rapidly from the desks of planners, politicians and business coalitions.” The nexus of colonial economic, political and administrative interests and exigencies therefore, led to a “series of ad-hoc decisions made by national security-minded managers of the postcolonial Indian State.” When the new Indian State was formed, these arbitrary boundaries drawn by the British administration that eschewed any comprehension of the traditional interdependences and linkages of kinship, family and trade between different ethnicities, were maintained by the government of free India. In order to understand the Ahom-Mizo conflict, it is, therefore, first important to understand how British rule became incumbent upon the Ahom kingdom. The kingdom that had held the reins of Assam in the Brahmaputra valley since the 13th century was significantly weakened by repeated attacks from Burmese forces in the early 1800s. The kingdom found itself unable to sustain or repudiate those attacks and thus sought the assistance of the then-fledgling Calcutta-based East India Company to do so. Like several other kingdoms in India that conceded their sovereignty for military and economic assistance from the new colonists in the 1700s and 1800s, the Ahom kingdom too depended heavily on the British in the first Anglo-Burmese war that lasted between 1824 and 1826. The British secured a decisive victory in the war, and the Ahom kingdom was compelled to assent to the Treaty of Yandabo and relinquish its sovereignty over the region they had ruled for centuries. The colonial administration thus acquired absolute control over Assam, Manipur, Cachar, Jaintia, and the Arakan province and Tenasserim in Burma. Over the next few decades, though Assam was first ruled as a component of the Bengal Province, in 1874 it was made into a separate Province directly governed by a Chief Commissioner who reported to the Lieutenant Governor of the Bengal Province. However, the colonists soon found it difficult to govern Assam separately and merged it with Bengal in 1905 to much outcry from the local population. In 1921, the area was again separated from Bengal and brought under the administration of a separate governor. It is evident from Assam’s history that these areas are much like the rest of India but were separated and merged purely on administrative convenience without regard to the interests of the inhabitants. In 1875, the British implemented another decision of border demarcation that would complicate Ahom-Mizo relationships in the years to come. The Northeast at that time was comprised of only three states – Assam, Tripura and Manipur. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram were parts of Greater Assam. The British released a notification that determined the boundary between Assam’s Cachar region in the Barak Valley and the Lushai Hills (or Mizoram) on the basis of the Inner Line Reserved Forest Regulations, which in turn was founded on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations of (BEFR) of 1873. The Inner Line Permit Regulations are still in force today in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. It restricts the movement of individuals into these states, and became a detail complicating discussion around the Citizenship Amendment Act as well. For the British however, the purpose was less to protect the forests or the resources or the people of the area, and more to protect the interests of the Crown. The Lieutenant Governor was empowered to define an Inner Line that would allow the British administration unhindered control over the area, though the publicly stated objective was to protect tribal interests. The foundation of the British colonial rule in India was economic exploitation and accumulation of capital, and thus, these regulations restricted the entry and stay of outsiders or “British subjects” (Indians) in these areas to prevent them from trading there and competing with the commercial enterprise of the Raj. In independent India the term “British subjects” was modified to ‘Citizen of India” as the stated concern had now become the protection of indigenous interests from incursions by outsiders from mainland India. In 1933 however, the British implemented another notification. They divided the Northeast into three separate districts ostensibly based on cultural, linguistic and tribal lines; with the trifurcation separating Cachar (Assam), Lushai Hills (Mizoram) and the princely state of Manipur, though parts of the Lushai Hills also became parts of Manipur. According to various political leaders of Mizoram however, this demarcation was instituted without any comprehension of local Mizo interests. In the opinion of Chief Minister Zoramthanga, because such a demarcation was made without any consultation with Mizo counterparts and was then reinstituted in independent India, several Mizo-speaking areas became parts of Assam. Thus for Mizoram, the only acceptable solution to the ongoing boundary dispute is a border demarcation on the basis of the 1875 notification, not the 1933 one. Indeed, after the events of 26th July 2021, the Mizoram government constituted a boundary committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Tawnluia, and comprised of four ministers, members of NGOs, political parties, the police chief and the Chief Secretary. This committee reiterated that “The demarcation of Mizoram’s boundary/border in its northern side is to be found only in the Inner Line of 1875” and that the Mizoram-Assam boundary issue will only be “desirably resolved on the basis of this document alone.” Assam does not agree however, and subscribes to the demarcation specified in 1933 notification.

Ahom-Mizo Conflict Post-Independence

The present state of Mizoram only achieved statehood several years after Independence. Even so, Mizo consciousness about self-determination was already fostered in the years leading up to Independence with the Mizo Common People’s Union formed on 9th April 1946, which later became the Mizo Union (MU). The Constituent Assembly had instituted an Advisory Committee in order to better make decisions related to tribal and minority communities – a part of which was a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi, which aimed to advise the Constituent Assembly on matters explicitly concerning the Northeast. The MU submitted a resolution to this committee demanding that all Mizo-inhabited areas adjacent to the Lushai Hills be included into one separate region with adequate autonomy. Though the Bordoloi Sub-Committee’s recommendations did lead to a certain degree of autonomy of regions in the Northeast being enshrined in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, with the Lushai Hills Autonomous District Council coming into being in 1952; the Mizos representatives were only partially satisfied. They demanded of the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) in 1954 to integrate the Mizo-majority areas in Tripura and Manipur with the District Council in Assam. The SRC did not agree to this demand, leading to the formation of the Eastern India Union (EITU) in Aizawl in 1955 which was joined by the breakaway faction from the MU. The EITU demanded a separate state consisting of every hill district of Assam, though this demand was also not implemented by the SRC. In 1954, the Mizo Hills were ravaged by the Mautam Famine which led to widespread devastation wreaked upon lives, economies and society. Rats that had bred due to the overproduction of bamboos consumed all the harvest and besieged the villages with disease and starvation. Though the region sought assistance from the Indian government, they were dissatisfied with the inadequate resources they were supplied with. In this milieu, a cultural and welfare organization called the Mizo National Famine Front was formed in 1959 for famine relief, which later developed into the Mizo National Front (MNF) on 22nd October 1961 under Laldenga with the stated objective of securing sovereignty and independence of Greater Mizoram. Allegedly funded by East Pakistan and China, the MNF caused large-scale disturbances across Aizawl, Lunglei, Chawngte, and Chhimluang, among other areas. In retaliation and in the first and only attack undertaken by the Indian government on its own territory, it bombed the areas affected with insurgency from 5th – 13th March 1966 utilizing the Dassault Ouragan Fighter Jets of the Indian Air Force and British hunters from Assam were deployed in Aizawl. It also outlawed the MNF as a terrorist organization in 1967, which led to a reenergized demand for a separate Mizo state. Finally in 1971, the Mizo District Council delegation met with Indira Gandhi and accepted the offer of the Indian government to be granted the status of a separate Union Territory on the condition that Mizoram would achieve statehood soon. Thus, on 21st January 1972, Mizoram became a Union Territory and was granted one seat each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Finally, on 15th February 1985, Laldenga met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and declared that the only viable solution to the controversies plaguing the Indian government’s relationship with Mizoram would be an accord conditional to the allowance of full statehood to Mizoram. This accord was signed between the MNF and the Union Government of India on 30th June 1986, which led to several Mizo insurgents and leaders surrendering their arms and coming out of hiding. With the Indian government assured that conditions of peace and stability were now possible in Mizoram, a Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed on 5th August 1986, with Mizoram formally being conferred statehood on 20th February 1987. Now, Mizoram found itself on equal status with Assam, which had held the position of a state from years before Independence. For all Mizo political leaders therefore, this hard-won sovereignty became a matter of legacy and pride. They found (and continue to find) it even more egregious that the 1933 notification of Assam-Mizoram boundary was drawn without consultation of the Mizo people and that the Union Government reinstituted it without consideration as well. Thus, the demand to redraw the boundary on the basis of the 1875 notification instead has still continued.

Factors Complicating Ahom-Mizo Relations

Several factors have complicated the conflictual relationship between Assam and Mizoram over the years, before and after Independence.  It is evident that at the root of most of the issues surrounding the Ahom-Mizo conflict are the Inner Line Permit Regulations that were passed by the British administration. Therefore, in order to better understand this conflict, it is important to analyze why these regulations were instituted in the first place. The main reason that the Inner Line Permit Regulations were instituted was to protect the newly established and numerous tea plantations in the Northeast. In the 19th century, the immense proliferation of European tea plantations could only be described as a massive accumulation of tribal land, and thus, they became an extremely important economic interest for the British colonial rulers. Because they had become such significant sources of revenue from the colonies, they also became focal points of administrative difficulties. Thus, in order to ensure that tax collection and administration could be carried out with ease, the British administration thought that it was necessary to institute fabricated divisions between the people of the Assam plains and those of the hill tribes. When the Inner Line Regulations were passed in the late 19th century, though the aim was ostensibly to protect the interests, rights, and customs of the hill tribes, the actual goal was to provide a territorial delimitation of the region in which the British had extensively important economic interests. However, in this process, the British also faced a problem; because each of these areas – be it in the Assam plains, or in the surrounding hills, such as the Lushai District – there were overlapping and historical networks of cultures and traditions, trade and kinship. This attempt, therefore, to fence off these tea plantations and to separate these areas from how they were previously, also managed to infringe upon the traditional livelihoods of the individuals who inhabited these areas which would include the gathering of natural resources from the forest or hunting. However, because these hastily drawn lines were drawn purely on the basis of economic and administrative convenience, these were never completely permanent lines. Every time that the British discovered new sources of plantation capital or coal tracts or valuable forest areas they redrew their survey maps, and then made an insertion into the government gazette to also include those areas into the Inner Line Regulations. Indeed, even the British later acknowledged that such casual redrawing of boundaries was an erroneous decision made at the time. However, the matter that has to be noted here is that the 1875 notification on the basis of which decades of Ahom-Mizo conflict has festered, and which has led to losses of life and property, was neither a permanent one, nor one that was brought after careful and appropriate planning and forethought. It was simply a matter of administrative convenience for the colonial rulers. Because it was reinforced by the free Indian government, it has continued to be a flashpoint in conflicts between these two neighbouring states.

The British administration was also largely unconcerned that the arbitrary distinctions that they were drawing for administrative ease would cause irreparable damage to the existing relationships and lives of the individuals who inhabited the Northeast. The British understood that the best way to make the collection of revenue convenient would be to classify and artificially differentiate the people of this region. Thus, when they discovered that the people of the hill tracks had relatively egalitarian habits and social structures, as compared to the caste-ridden social framework of the Assam Province with individuals engaged in practices that appeared Hindu; they instituted a binary which would allow them to comprehend and administer these north-eastern regions. Indeed, it was on the basis of this perception of difference that the hill tribes were categorized as Excluded areas and Partially Excluded Areas in the 1935 Government of India Act. These Excluded Areas included the Lushai Hill districts and were placed under the executive control of the Assam Lieutenant Governor. Through these regulations, the “British subjects” or Indians, including the Assamese, were prohibited from entering, buying property or trading in these areas without the rarely- granted Inner Line Permit. However, there were intimate economic and cultural interconnectivities between the Lushai hills district and the greater Assam region, as well as interwoven political ties between the Ahom kingdom and the Lushai or the Mizos. The differentiation that was instituted between them was therefore a fabrication of the colonial rule.

In the years leading up to independence and immediately afterwards, the Indian administration was particularly concerned that the British colonial rulers had unnecessarily differentiated and separated the individuals residing in the Northeast (especially the hill tribes) from the mainland Indian population. Thus, it initiated a policy of assimilation and integration that, while perhaps well-intentioned, all but ignored the particularities and specificities of the region. This was worsened by the implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the aftermath of the Sino-India War of 1962, ostensibly in order to maintain conditions of peace and stability in the region. However, this Act was consistently misused, which led to local embitterment. In Mizoram, as a consequence of these dissatisfactions, several Chin tribes collected under a single umbrella and came together to build a new Mizo identity. Factors Complicating Ahom-Mizo RelationsHowever, at this point, Assam was still continuing its assimilationist agenda, and the Mizo people felt that there was a tendency to not respect their specific culture, language and identity. Thus, the demand for autonomy, and later independence emerged. Threatened by Laldenga’s underground government in 1966 and the subsequent rebellion, the Centre initiated the village regrouping schemes, which deprived the individuals of the region of their ancestral villages and caused them to lose their houses and leave behind their legacies. As 464 villages were regrouped into 109 centres between 1967 and 1970, Mizo political leaders appeal to the Guwahati High Court in order to ensure that a stay order is issued on these centres. As the regrouping was withdrawn in 1970, and the amnesty offer was made to the rebels, which eventually led to Mizoram becoming an independent state, conditions of peace and stability were ensured for the time being. However, this did not last. On December 31th 1974, the MNF released notices labelled “Quit Mizoram” to non-Mizos inhabiting the area – an environment that was further worsened due to the Emergency being declared. These differences have continued over the years, despite the growth of missionary involvement, urbanization and literacy.

In recent years, the Mizoram’s government’s demand that state boundaries be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification on Inner Line Permit Regulations is also based on the contention that Assam has allowed illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to settle in the disputed areas. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) on Inner Line Forest Reserve Demand, a Mizoram-based organization has demanded that the administration of the 509 sq miles of Inner Line Reserved Forest that is currently controlled by the Assam Forest Department be handed over to the Mizoram Forest Department instead. Reiterated the historical claims of their predecessors, the JAC was joined by several political parties and Mizoram-based NGOs to delineate their demands in a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018. The memorandum stated that the areas of Cachar Zion, Tlangnuam, Lala Bazar and Bhanga Bazar where a large population of Mizo people reside were excluded from Mizoram according to the notification of 1933; and that it was imperative that those areas be handed over to Mizoram. In the opinion of local politicians and policemen, there have been multiple villages with Mizo people inside Assam for decades, and the situation has been worsened because Assam “has allowed illegal settlements of Bangladeshi infiltrators” to be constructed in those areas. To the leaders of the JAC, the repeated emphasis on subscribing to 1875 Inner Line Permit Regulations is not due to any historical enmity with the Ahom people, but because they believe it will allow them to better mitigate the illegal Bangladeshi settlements that have proliferated in Lailapur. However, in the opinion of Assam’s Chief Minister, the Mizoram government and the JAC have been misinformed. As they have specified in numerous press conferences, the conditions of law and order are strong in these areas, and no individual – least of all illegal immigrants – have been allowed to construct permanent settlements there. Though both the states had agreed to uphold the status quo on ‘no-man’s land’ in the disputed area, locals from Lailapur have alleged that Mizo villagers have bombed school buildings in 2020 and continue to harass and intimidate the villagers. Indeed, though the Centre had requested the Chief Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram, and the Surveyor General of India for their opinions on the matter; Mizoram has been slow to respond despite repeated reminders.

Another issue that has recently come to the forefront has been that of the flow of illegal drugs. In the opinion of Assam authorities, the illegal drugs that are flooding Assam have been entering through Mizoram, and they have ordered that all vehicles that are entering the state from Mizoram be systematically inspected.  For the Mizoram government, this is an arbitrary discrimination that would cause unnecessary difficulties and inconveniences for “innocent citizens” who are travelling from Mizoram to Assam. In their opinion, there has been no restriction on the movement of non-residents of Mizoram who are travelling through the Mizoram-Assam border, and they have expressed their indigence that this new restriction is merely a way for the Assam police to harass the Mizo people. In a press release, the Mizoram government has stated that instead of illegal drugs moving from Mizoram to Assam, in the last ten years, large quantities of the same have infiltrated Mizoram from Assam instead. The release called for “better communication between the states” instead of inconveniencing innocent citizens in order to resolve the issue of drug trafficking.

History of Recent Skirmishes Leading Up To Now

Though there have been various agreements for the maintenance of peace at the Mizoram-Assam border, there has been recurrent breaches of these pacts by either side over the years. Both governments have alleged that neither respects the consensual boundaries of the other. While Assam claims that Mizoram is transgressing its legal boundaries, Mizoram claims that Assam is engaging in unilateral hostile moves within its territory. In February 2018, a wooden rest-house was constructed by the Mizoram Zirlai Pawl in the reserved forest area between Hailakandi in Assam and Kolasib in Mizoram. Tensions coalesced when the Assamese police demolished the structure, claiming that the land was Assam’s, eventually leading to the governments of both the states agreeing that they would disallow the assembly of people at the site of contention. In June 2020, according to the Mizoram government, Assamese officials visited some farms in the Mamit district without the permission of the state authorities, and miscreants torched down two farm huts in the Kolasib district. They also allege that Assam officials visited the inter-state border between Vairengte in Mizoram and Lailapur in Assam to the full knowledge of the CRPF duty post and the Home Ministry, but without the consent of the state government. They claim that the Assam government has also undertaken illegal construction work in the Burachep village of Mizoram. In October 2020, Assam police officials visited the Saihapui ‘V’ in Mizoram and allegedly intimidated the locals with threats to blockade the highway. Indeed, in the same month, the NH306 was blockaded by Assamese individuals from Lailapur. In November 2020, bombs were also detonated at the Upper Phainum Lower Primary School in Mizoram. In the months leading up to the July 26th 2021 incident, there were several scuffles that occurred between the inhabitants of Lailapur and Vairengte, and those of Karimganj and Mamit over issues such as plantation ownership and betel nut cultivation.

On the day of the incident, 200 Assam police led by the IGP of Assam Police, along with the DC, SP and DFO of Cachar arrived at the Vairengte auto-rickshaw stand in order to “resolve matters” in their opinion, and “force their way in” in Mizoram’s opinion. According to the press release published by Mizoram authorities, the team had forcibly trespassed into the state by crossing the CRPF and Mizoram police duty posts, and damaging several vehicles that were travelling along NH306 between Vairengte and Lailapur. In response, the Assam Home issued a statement declaring a completely contrasting point of view. According to them, Mizoram had, in violation of the status quo and existing agreements, begun constructing a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam which is in violation of the Lailapur Inner Line Reserve Forest area. Assam also alleged that Mizoram had set up an armed police camp next to the CRPF post on the state borders, and that was the reason that the team had travelled there to ensure that status quo is maintained. After hostilities broke out, Union Home Minister Amit Shah intervened and held closed-door meetings with the Chief Ministers of the Northeast states discussing this issue among others, after which both sides withdrew their forces. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga made public statements declaring their intentions to create, maintain and sustain conditions of peace on the border. They also tagged each other on tweets calling for the restoration of peace. However, it is evident that those conditions would still create a vulnerable peace, as both sides have also called for the creation of a “congenial environment” where both have to control their “police personnel and people from indulging in wanton violence.”

Decisions and Initiatives Taken by Governments

Chief Minister Sarma stated that the path towards a durable peace and understanding at the Assam-Mizoram border would be a long one as it is a decades-old, extremely complex issue. For him, “Assam’s position is that there is a constitutional boundary and Mizoram is asking about the historical boundary.” He also noted that these conflicts have had their genesis in the era of British colonial rule, and faulted the successive Congress governments for not clearly demarcating state boundaries when they carved out new ones in the aftermath of Independence. In his opinion, the Congress was never interested in a unified Northeast and thus created confusing and conflictual borders that have given rise to such violent incidents. Though the Northeast has had their differences, he has stated that they would “look at their commonalities” to find a long-term solution to the issue. He said that the “mistrust and differences” between the states precipitated into the July 2021 violence, and that he is presently in constant contact with Mizoram’s Chief Minister to find workable solutions to the problem. On 5th August 2021, on the advice of the Home Ministry and the Chief Ministers of both the states to diffuse the border tensions and find peaceful solutions, Assam ministers Ashok Singh and Atul Bora met with three representatives from Mizoram. The two parties released a joint statement declaring that no forest officials or police forces would be deployed “for patrolling, domination, enforcement or for fresh deployment” to any area where conflicts or confrontations have occurred between Assam and Mizoram in recent times. The statement noted that these areas included the districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj in Assam and those of Mamit and Kolasib in Mizoram. Both sides have registered their hope that this statement and the consequent restraint practised by either side would lead to enduring conditions of peace in the region.


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