Assam and Mizoram share a 164 km-long border. Three Assam districts: Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj share the border with Mizoram. The boundary dispute between the two is a 146-year-old dispute that dates back to the British rule in India.
In 1875, British determined the boundary between Assam’s Cachar and Mizoram, then known as Lushai Hills. Importantly, both the areas were parts of Greater Assam at that time. In those years, the northeast region comprised three states—Manipur, Tripura and Assam while Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh were all part of Greater Assam.
Mizoram does not accept the present boundary with Assam. Instead, the state believes that the inner line of the Inner Line Reserved Forest as described in the 1875 notification under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873 should be the basis for demarcation of the border and not the 1933 boundary demarcation, which Assam wants enforced.
Despite talks between leaders of the state and appeals made to the Central government, the dispute remains unresolved to date, while residents living in the border villages suffer the brunt of these unresolved issues. There have been simmering tension between the two states in the past few months, despite the pandemic. And it seems that while the second wave of the Coronavirus is on the decline, one cannot say the same about the tensions between the two states.
“It is hard to say how much we have lost because we cannot even go back to check on our farm. We planted around 2,000 betel nut trees and 500 banana trees. The JCB dug right through the middle of our farmland. We have looked after this land since 1982, but now we have lost everything,” said Chalchhunga, the owner of land in Buarchep, a locality in Phainuam, which lies under the Kolasib district of Mizoram.
The Assam Police allegedly encroached on Chalchhunga’s land on July 10 and dug the area that was once Chalchhunga’s farm claiming that the land area came under the Assam state’s jurisdiction.
“We are a family of 13 residing in one house and our farmland was our main livelihood. Our betel nut trees are around 3 years old. This year we planted almost 1,000 betel nut seedlings. We are trying to enlarge our crop every year since we need it to provide for our family. I am suffering from high BP and asthma so my children take care of the land,” said 77-year-old Chalchhunga.
According to Lalthanpuii, a resident of Phainuam and the treasurer of the Village Council, around 19 people, including NGO officials and a few policemen who were called in, urgently gathered at the area when they got the report that the Assam police had started digging Chalchhunga’s land.
“The workers in Chalchhunga’s land tried to stop the road construction informing the Assam Police that the land was theirs. Things went quiet for a while but the police came back in a larger group after a few minutes. The Assam Police told us that the 6km area from Phainuam is under their jurisdiction, they said they are going to dig the area to construct a road and asked us not to get involved. But me and four other women stood right in front of the bamboo fencing to guard our land area. We were scared that if men were at the front then there might be an outbreak of violence. There were police women and they did not do anything to us but the police men dismantled the fencing and started attacking us, even the women. A policeman hit one of our women on her breasts, she suffered a lot of pain because of it,” said the VC treasurer.
“They pushed us and they beat us with their sticks. We tried to push back but there were too many of them. I was answering a call when one policeman saw me using my phone, he asked me to put away the phone and when I did not listen to him, he beat me on my arm with his stick,” she said.
An FIR was filed on the incident on July 12, 2021, at the Vairengte Police Station by Chawngthanpari, the President of the Vairengte Block MHIP (Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl), the lone women’s body of Mizoram. The complaint which was registered under section 325/354 IPC stated that five women, including the 47-year-old Lalthanpuii, were attacked by the Assam police personnel using lathis with some ladies being flogged and beaten on their private parts, while some sustained injuries on their head. It further stated that the fleeing ladies were chased by the personnel and severely beaten with the women requiring care at the Vairengte Community Health Centre.
The farming community was also affected when on June 2, 2021, the crops of around four people in Ailawng in Kolasib district were allegedly damaged when Assam police decided to build camp posts over the farms.
Darthanzauva, a 33-year-old farmer from Ailawng said the Assam police set up camp posts in around six places in their farm area.
“Their camp post is located exactly on the place where we once had our crops. They cleared all the crops of the surrounding area and dug trenches near the camp. I planted many things like betel nut, lemon trees, mango, and jackfruit and broomcorns,” he said.
The 33-year-old lives in a joint family household and provides for his two children, aged five and two, as well as his younger siblings, two of whom are still studying.
“The farm was our main source of income, we largely depended on the broom corns, which used to fetch us around Rs 3,00,000 a year. We cannot visit our farm so I don’t know how much crops I have lost,” he said.
On July 12, Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana in a press briefing said the Government of Assam should pay adequate compensation for the crops that were damaged in Buarchep area by Assam’s police forces. For now, it looks unlikely that the tensions between the two states are going to subside.
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