On Saturday, July 24, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his team arrived in Shillong for a meeting with all the Chief Ministers of the North Eastern States for two days. 

The meeting, under the chairmanship of Amit Shah, was looked upon with high expectations by the people of the region, particularly on the issue of how interstate boundary disputes would be solved. Media from all corners of the region touted the meeting as something of a ‘final solution’ for interstate boundary disputes which date back to the colonial era, starting from the creation of colonial Assam to the undemocratic adoption by the post-colonial state in the re-organization process.

Taking this opportunity, the Chief Minister of Mizoram handed over the memorandum, collectively prepared by all political parties, NGOs and the Joint Action Committee, Mizoram. The significance of this memorandum is that it contains the study of issues related to the present-day Mizoram boundary, starting from the time the British recognised the Mizo hills as an independent country. 

In addition, the Mizoram CM also impressed upon the Home Minister that Mizos had, for centuries, been living and cultivating the land that Assam claims as their ‘constitutional boundary’. The CM also informed the Home Minister that as per his discussion with the Assam CM on June 29, 2021, the two CMs had decided to maintain ‘status quo’ according to the agreement of May 10, 2021. 

The people may be warned, threatened, beaten and shot at too, but they will never yield. They have nothing more to lose. The land is the only thing left, and they will protect it with their lives. “This is my land!” 

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With hopes of a solution soon, the Mizos abided by the decision of their Government and remained quiet. The calm of Vairengte town was soon disturbed by the arrival of a contingent of about 200 Assam Police personnel led by top officials of GoA on July 26, 2021. This surprised the people of Mizoram, as two days had not passed since the two CMs and the Union Home Minister had agreed to maintain the status quo, prompting one to ask, “If not from the top, where could the order have come from?”

Before the Mizoram Police and other officials could arrive, the people started panicking; they were left with no choice but to defend their land.

Who pulled the trigger first?

There are countless allegations and counter-allegations on social media not only among the general masses but also from the top officials and the heads of governments. Despite various statements and reports to the contrary, it is simply not rational to assume that the Mizoram Police could have fired the first bullet when the Kolasib SP and other officials were negotiating with their Assam counterparts in a location surrounded by the Assam Police. Kolasib SP and his team barely survived the encounter. Further, it has been reported that Mizoram Police sought shelter in the CRPF camp, which was denied by the CRPF on duty. The CRPF commandant has since promised the Mizoram IGP that an inquiry will be done based on this allegation.

It must be pointed out that the Assam side has a history of shooting first: not to mention various incidents going back much earlier, starting from the 2018 Zophai incident. The Assam Police is infamous for shooting unarmed Mizo students without hesitation. In the said incident many were injured without loss of lives, fortunately. As a result of the latest incident, a state-sponsored economic blockade has begun on the national highway and railway. This is nothing new. Past blockades have sometimes lasted for weeks and Mizo is forced to always prepare for them in the aftermath of such unfortunate incidents.

In the latest unfortunate encounter, six police personnel from Assam died and many were injured. Mizoram sends their deepest condolences to their family and the people of Assam. The loss of precious lives is mourned and no explanation can justify their deaths. At the same time, that their deaths could have been avoided had the Assam Government not intruded in another’s territory or at least not brought a huge contingent if they wanted to negotiate, as they claim, cannot be stressed enough. The jubilation of the people should also not be wrongly interpreted, as shown by some unethical media. No one celebrates the death of the policemen. It was a natural reaction to the retreat of the Assam Police and the re-taking of the Mizoram border post. Most people in Mizoram knew about the casualty only the next day. 

What does one gain by disturbing and torturing the people living in their ancestral land? What is their fault? Living on the edge of a border constructed by a colonial State formation process?

Accusing others vs. peaceful solution

There are a lot of allegations and finger-pointing directed at the Mizo people and the GoM from various media outlets in Assam and Delhi without proper inquiry into the ground reality. Quite surprisingly, a handful of journalists, mostly from Assam, who are well-versed in the genesis of the problem, have shown courage and integrity by laying the blame where it rightly belongs: the CM of Assam.

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A tweet by the CM of Assam vowed to raise three battalions of commandos to be deployed in the Mizoram border. This cannot be construed as anything less than a threat and desire for revenge.

We can only hope and pray that better sense prevails upon the CM of Assam and he comes up with rational and peaceable solutions instead. This is the earnest prayer and sincere hope of the people of Assam as well as Mizoram. We gain nothing through violence. We will be neighbours forever; we have come this far as northeasterners, this is not the way to welcome back our two Olympians, Lalremsiami and Lovlina Borgohian. Let’s pray that the rightful solution will be arrived at through what the CM of Mizoram tweets ‘peace and understanding’.

The Mizoram CM impressed upon the Home Minister that Mizos had, for centuries, been living and cultivating the land that Assam claims as their ‘constitutional boundary’

Decoding ‘constitutional boundary’

No explanation is found in the Constitution of India though.

While using the term, it can be assumed that the CM of Assam has referred to the NEARA 1971 and the origin of the NEARA 1971 can be traced back to the 1933 inner line, which needs no further elaboration. This has been contested by the Mizo leaders as ‘force boundary’ because it had been forcefully demarcated by the Colonial authority without the knowledge of the Mizo chiefs. The history has been specified in the Memorandum given to the Union Home Minister by the CM of Mizoram. The only boundary accepted by the Mizo is the inner line of 1875 notified under BEFR 1873. If the GoA thinks that they have the right to claim the 1933 inner line, the GoM has every right to claim the 1875 inner line. Both have colonial origins and neither is a product of a post-colonial democratic state. 

Does this mean we are still living under a colonial wrong? Yes. 

Since the dawn of Independence, the Mizo leaders appealed to the members of the Constituent Assembly sub-committee headed by the then Premier of Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi. The Mizo leaders hoped that under the new democratic state of India, they would be part of every decision-making process, including the reorganization of Mizo-inhabited areas, at least those that followed the 1875 inner line. In what could have been the right moment to take this decision, the sub-committee wasted the opportunity and diverted the appeal. Following this, the Mizo political leaders never ceased to appeal to the GoI, from the days of being a District Council to the present, irrespective of party line and ideology. The Mizo people still believe that this colonial wrong can be righted by the democratic process of the Indian Constitution. 

Back to square one

On July 28, 2021, the two states’ chief secretaries, under the chairmanship of the Union Home Secretary, agreed and signed on a decision for the deployment of neutral forces. i.e., CRPF in the disputed areas. They also agreed to ‘continue discussions mutually to resolve border issue amicably’. Will the Assam Government still deploy 3000 commandos on Mizoram borders? Will the CRPF be able to man these disputed areas when they are largely responsible for the current problem? Had they stopped the march of the Assam Police and the officials in the outskirts of Vairengte, this story would have ended differently and precious lives would not have been lost.

“This is my land”

What does one gain by disturbing and torturing the people living in their ancestral land? What is their fault? Living on the edge of a border constructed by a colonial State formation process? This is their fathers’ land and their fathers’ fathers before that. They lived, hunted and buried their dead here, even before the rise of the Colonial state. Their past is written on this land, and so will their future. It is no wonder this moment has strengthened the resolve of the Mizo people on what they believe is rightfully theirs.

The people may be warned, threatened, beaten and shot at too, but they will never yield. They have nothing more to lose. The land is the only thing left, and they will protect it with their lives. “This is my land!” 

The author is currently teaching in Govt. T. Romana College, Aizawl. He is a member of Boundary Committee constituted by the Government of Mizoram. The article reflects his personal ideas and research and has nothing to do with his association with other bodies.

Counter Opinion: Assam-Mizoram border dispute: In search for a solution



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