To the families of the policemen who died in the border clash, I offer my deepest condolences. I wish those who have sustained injuries a speedy recovery. This tragic incident is a blot on the trust and friendship between two north-eastern states, Assam and Mizoram.

The border dispute between Assam and Mizoram may be about 175 years old, but we the people have age-old ties. We share mutual cooperation and kinship. Many Assamese people work in Mizoram; people from Silchar run businesses there. Similarly, many Mizo students are pursuing their education in Assam. They feel safe in cities like Guwahati, Jorhat and the Assamese society has accepted them. In Delhi and the other metro cities, we stand together in our joint fight against racial discrimination towards people from the Northeast.

At a challenging time like this, the two communities need to be sensible and not lose sanity to propaganda. Being the eldest, Assam carries greater responsibility.

I think the very idea of the northeast carries great importance. Northeast can be the hub of the country’s tourism sector. Tourists not only want to come to Assam, but they want to visit the other northeast states through Assam. Similarly, no other state can single-handedly attract tourists by bypassing Assam as it is the gateway to the northeast.

Those seeking to disturb peace are criticising the Assamese government, especially the police for not retaliating. They are calling it ‘weakness’; but I believe this was necessary to maintain peace and calm. Had the Assam police fired in equal proportion, many civilians would have died and escalated the situation to the point of no return.

At a time like this, we are looking up to our leaders to set an example but we don’t see it coming. The “kill them all” statement by the Rajya Sabha MP from Mizoram was unbecoming of a lawmaker sworn to protect the Constitution of India.

Also Read: Don’t travel to Mizoram, Assam government tells citizens

Questions are now being raised on the role of the ‘North East Democratic Alliance’ or NEDA and its convener, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in finding a solution. But can a political platform created to battle Congress address a border dispute?  

It is heartening to see that NESO (North East Students’ Organisation) leadership have issued a detailed statement condemning the incident and urging both the governments to sit across and solve the border issue. As an organisation, NESO stands together on various issues pertaining to the interest of the indigenous people. That’s why they have to take a neutral position regarding the border dispute. It is important to look at it pragmatically.

Assam should take the issue in a more holistic manner. We can never solve the issue by putting Mizoram in trouble. Same thing goes with Mizoram. It is a small state that still has to depend on the Central government. All the essential commodities pass through Assam. Assam’s support is indispensable for Mizoram to progress.

Most of the people from the rest of the northeast see Assam as big brother. Many think that Assam has discriminated against them in the past. Assam has border disputes with every (neighbouring) state. Despite all this, I think the very idea of the northeast carries great importance. Northeast can be the hub of the country’s tourism sector. Tourists not only want to come to Assam, but they want to visit the other northeast states through Assam. Similarly, no other state can single-handedly attract tourists by bypassing Assam as it is the gateway to the northeast.

In a similar manner, the notion of northeast is very important when it comes to industries, trade, agriculture, horticulture etc.

The way I see it, Assam should take the issue in a more holistic manner. We can never solve the issue by putting Mizoram in trouble. Same thing goes with Mizoram. It is a small state that still has to depend on the Central government. All the essential commodities pass through Assam. Assam’s support is indispensable for Mizoram to progress.

The fact that the Assam police restrained itself during the attack must be appreciated; but who knows if the same result can be expected in future.

The Home Minister’s meeting with chief ministers of northeast in Shillong brought a ray of hope and at that moment no one expected the situation to escalate to such a scale along the Assam-Mizoram border. The fact that the Assam police restrained itself during the attack must be appreciated; but who knows if the same result can be expected in future.

Now, what could be the solution? I think the situation is rather conducive to finding a resolution. Assam now has a strong chief minister. Home minister Amit Shah is the kind of person who is very good at taking decisions. So, it is the right time to find a permanent solution. Assam and Mizoram governments should sit for discussion in the presence of the Union home minister. The strong civil society of Mizoram must be made party to the talks.

The influx of Bangladeshi immigrants haunts both the states – Mizos cannot send them to Assam and see it as a solution. This is a problem of all states in the northeast.

Instead of violence, we should deal with these issues peacefully. We all want a peaceful and developed northeast. The actual truth is that neither Assam nor Mizoram can live without each other. 

The DoNER ministry must initiate developmental projects along the Assam-Mizoram border area so that people from both sides are benefitted. Similar projects can be implemented along Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland border.  

Instead of violence, we should deal with these issues peacefully. We all want a peaceful and developed northeast. The actual truth is that neither Assam nor Mizoram can live without each other. 

At last I urge everyone, please don’t add fuel to the fire. In the interest of the northeast, we should better restrain ourselves from making provocative statements and find a solution together. 

Shyamkanu Mahanta is an entrepreneur with expertise in infrastructure project planning. He is a regular columnist, TV host and political analyst. He has been leading the popular North-East Festival initiatives in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok etc.

Counter Opinion: Assam CM must realise he cannot ‘win’ the border issue against us Mizos



Latest Stories

Leave a comment

Leave a comment