It has been a month since July 26 and three weeks since the joint statement agreeing “to remove tensions prevailing around the inter-state borders” by Ministers of both states. But the disputed Assam-Mizoram boundary is far from quiet.

Testament to this is a dozen-odd letters that have been sent by Mizoram officials to either the Ministry of Home Affairs or officials of the Assam government about breaches of the August 5 joint statement, two on that day itself. Meanwhile, Assam has also made several allegations against Mizoram. 

Assam Ministers Atul Bora and Ashok Singhal had visited Aizawl on August 5 to hold talks with Mizoram Ministers Lalchamliana and Lalruatkima.

A joint statement was issued saying, “…both the states shall not send their respective Forest and Police forces for patrolling, domination, enforcement or for fresh deployment to any of the areas where confrontation and conflict has taken place between the Police forces of the two states…”

But that day itself, two letters were dispatched by Mizoram’s Home Department.

One, sent to the MHA, said “Assam Police and CRPF personnel have placed barricades” (this was while the economic blockade on Mizoram had been on for 10 days) on NH-306 while other points along the inter-state boundary were blocked and Mizoram-bound vehicles remained stranded since July 26.

Another, sent to Assam’s Home Department, said a new Assam Police camp had been constructed within the territory of Saipum village, in northern Mizoram, adjacent to Hadama village in southern Cachar.

More of the same and a couple of FIRs about gunfire and theft would follow in coming weeks.

August 7 saw another letter dispatched, detailing how vehicles bound for Mizoram were attacked at Lailapur after an understanding had been reached for their safe passage. The matter was settled within a few hours.

After a brief lull, the Mizoram government again wrote to the Assam government, with a copy marked to the MHA on August 11, saying that despite an assurance by Minister Atul Bora that orders would be withdrawn, Assam had pulled back a travel advisory but not an order that called for the checking of all vehicles entering Assam from Mizoram, which has been denounced by the Mizoram Government as having the potential to “undoubtedly create unnecessary problems and hardships to the innocent citizens of the country travelling from Mizoram to Assam”.

A day before Independence day was another letter, again to the Assam government with a copy marked to the MHA, that Assam Police had built two new duty posts on the eastern side of a stream near Phainuam village, and that “Assam Police has also started construction of a bridge over Saihapui V (Kulicherra) river.”

“This bridge,” the letter went on to say, “is constructed upon paddy fields, fish ponds and arecanut plantations belonging to eight Mizo farmers.” Destruction of farms and crops has been among the most contentious issues in the boundary dispute in recent years.

A day after Independence Day, another letter was sent, a reminder that the Assam government had not yet revoked the vehicle-checking order despite Minister Bora’s assurance.

Come August 18, Mizoram would again write, twice, to the Assam government. 

While one was to lodge its protest over the continued construction of the bridge near Saihapui V, another involved gunshots. 

Three Mizoram residents, the letter said, had been shot at in the disputed area near Aitlang, a ridge that is straddled by Vairengte in Mizoram’s Kolasib district and Dholcherra in Assam’s Hailakandi district. Although no one had sustained gunshot wounds, one had been injured as they fled, it continued.

Come August 19, Kolasib Deputy Commissioner Dr H Lalthlangliana wrote to his Hailakandi counterpart, saying that Assam Police had extended their camp site at Aitlang. 

A day later, focus shifted towards the bridge near Saihapui V, with the Mizoram Home Department requesting the MHA to impress upon the CRPF, which is deployed so that either state’s police forces do not breach the status quo, to cooperate in maintaining the status quo.

But there were other issues at hand as well.

The Mizoram government, in another letter to it’s Assam counterpart, said a planned visit by a DFO of Assam’s Forest Department to areas near a Mizoram Forest Beat Post at Tuisen, adjacent to Batakhal in Assam, calling it a violation of the August 5 joint statement.

It was on this same day that what would be termed “theft” occurred at a bridge not far from the paddy field of Mizoram’s first Chief Minister, Ch. Chhunga, at Zophai near Mizoram’s Bairabi village.  

The following day, August 21, Kolasib DC Dr H Lalthlangliana wrote to his Hailakandi counterpart saying that Assam Police personnel “stole” construction materials that were being used for a bridge that had been undergoing construction and which, he said, isn’t linked to the boundary issue. 

Assam officials had rubbished the claims of theft. But the following day, Sunday, Assam Police returned the material and local police officers from both sides — Ramnathpur PS OC, Sub-Inspector Liton Nath and Bairabi PS OC Inspector Lalrinhlua — signed on a hand-written “handover” document

Officials said on August 23, a video conference was called by the Union Home Secretary and attended by the Chief Secretaries of both the states. 

At the meeting, the MHA is said to have directed both states to immediately stop construction of both the bridges that have become flashpoints and also to look into all allegations about breaches of the August 5 joint statement.  

The Frontier Despatch is a weekly Mizo-language news magazine published from Aizawl.

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