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Assam Mizoram Border Clash – Learn how a geographical issue turned into an ethnic conflict?

Assam Mizoram Border Clash – Learn how a geographical issue turned into an ethnic conflict?

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Other Constitutional Dimensions || Inter-State Relations

Why in news?

  • The old boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram exploded in violent clashes at a contested border point.

The immediate cause for the dispute

  • According to the Mizoram side, people from Assam have violated the status quo – as agreed upon between the two State governments a few years ago – in “no man’s land” to trigger the present crisis.

Confrontations in the Past

  • There have been confrontations over territory in the northeast region in the past. For instance, at least 28 policemen were killed in clashes on the Assam-Nagaland border in June 1985.
  • The NSCN’s (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) demand for a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim. Which includes parts of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh. It has been a major roadblock in the resolution of the Naga issue.
  • Manipur has had its share of inter-state disputes resulting in destructive economic blockades.
  • The Assam-Mizoram border has been restive, particularly since last year, necessitating the deployment of paramilitary forces.

Causes of the Assam-Mizoram Border Conflict and Inter-State Border Tensions

  • Natural calamities and Hazy line a reason-The border between the two neighboring states is a fictitious line that shifts in response to natural obstacles such as rivers, hills, valleys, and forests. People in Assam and Mizoram have blamed border conflicts on disagreements over this hazy line. As a result, people living in border areas frequently cross over to the other side because they are unaware of the border demarcation.
  • The fault lines created by Britishers in boundary demarcation remain unresolved. They drew lines based on their commercial interests. Local community sensitivities to land were either ignored or suppressed during the process.
    • The border dispute dates back to 1875 when the British separated the Lushai Hills from the Cachar plains. The British drew the boundary after consulting with Mizo chiefs.
    • However, the boundary between Lushai Hills and the then-princely state of Manipur was established in 1933. It stated that the Manipur boundary began at the intersection of the Lushai Hills, the Cachar district of Assam, and the state of Manipur.
    • The Mizos reject this demarcation and point to the boundary drawn in consultation with their chiefs in 1875. In the decades following independence, Assam was subdivided into states and UTs based on the 1933 line.
    • Nagaland (1963), Arunachal Pradesh (UT 1972, formerly NEFA), Meghalaya (UT 1972), and Mizoram are among them (UT 1972).
  • Migrant issues- There has been an increase in the number of political conversations aimed at migrants and “outsiders.” This reduces the space and scope for fluid borders and fixes people’s identities according to the region to realize the region’s cultural and economic potential.
    • Last year, volunteers from a Mizo student body reportedly began setting up checkpoints on the Assam side of the border.
    • They claimed that the Lushai tribes’ descendants were being denied their rightful home due to increased encroachment by Bangladeshi immigrants.
    • These checkpoints even made it impossible for Assam government forest officials to carry out their routine movements.
  • Failure of constitutional machinery and leadership – Third, the events point to a failure of the constitutional machinery, which is supposed to de-escalate border tensions.
    • The presence of central paramilitary forces should have aided in maintaining peace, but this did not occur.
    • Furthermore, both states are ruled by central government allies. However, the political leadership failed to keep the region at peace.
  • Economic issues- Economic competition for land, fueled by a lack of non-farm jobs across the Northeast region, is escalating state rivalry.
  • Transport of Illegal drugs – Another issue that complicates the border situation is the transportation of illegal drugs through Mizoram to Assam and other parts of the country.
  • The border witnessed firing over a territory dispute, which spotlights the long-standing inter-state boundary issues in the Northeast, particularly between Assam and the states which were carved out of it.
    • Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley and the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km Both states border Bangladesh.
    • Boundary disputes between states are a major source of inter-state conflict in India. For example, Karnataka and Maharashtra both claim Belgaum, and the issue comes up from time to time.
    • The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act of 1971 altered the political landscape of northeast India by establishing states such as Manipur and Tripura, as well as the formation of Meghalaya.
    • This reorganization, however, has resulted in numerous boundary disputes in the northeastern region, such as Assam-Nagaland, Assam-Meghalaya, and so on.

Reasons for border disputes in North-East Region

  • State reorganization: All other states were part of Assam during the British period and separated from it after independence. Because of this, all of these states have a border dispute with Assam.
  • Lack of foresight in reorganization: Although the Central Government of India reorganized the border regularly to meet various separatist demands, it lacked foresight. At the time of border formation, the government was unable to resolve tribal area issues. These boundaries continue to conflict with tribal areas and identities, causing territorial disputes in the region and disrupting the peace.
  • Separatist movement: There is a strong separatist movement in these areas. This encourages border disputes.
  • Inadequate development: There is a scarcity of development projects in these areas, and this region is still struggling to connect with the rest of society. Poverty and illiteracy are widespread in these areas. Protectionist concepts are controversial in such a situation.
  • International involvement: The region is surrounded by China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Some elements in these countries are attempting to create instability by inflaming disputes in India’s northeastern region.

Steps taken to resolve

  • Maintaining the status quo– Mizoram and Assam signed an agreement to maintain the status quo in the border area’s no-land. man’s
    • In 2006, the Supreme Court-appointed a three-member Local Commission, led by a retired Supreme Court judge, to demarcate all boundaries between Assam, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. It also attempted mediation between 2010 and 2013, but all efforts were futile.
    • The Union home secretary convened a meeting of the chief secretaries of both states and the concerned police chiefs in mid-July 2021.
    • All issues were discussed at the meeting using maps, photos, videos, and satellite images of the region.
    • A strategy for maintaining the status quo and withdrawing forces from the border was devised.

Way forward

  • Dialogue and discussion can pave the way- There can be no sure-fire and quick solution to the border disputes between various states unless there is a spirit of giving and take and civic engagement facilitated by the Union government.
  • Engaging with stake holders-For this to happen, governments must first try to put an end to all forms of violence and restrain partisans who engage in such activity in their respective states.
    • State leaders must foster peace, put in place institutional safeguards to prevent breakdowns, and negotiate a resolution to long-standing disputes.
  • Duly use of constitutional mechanism and Reviving the Inter-state council The mechanisms in the Constitution for resolving inter-state disputes should be used. This includes convening an Inter-State Council (Article 263) or petitioning the Supreme Court to hear a case (Article 131).
    • Under Article 263 of the Constitution, the Inter-state council is expected to inquire and advise on disputes, discuss subjects common to all states and make recommendations for better policy coordination.
  • Proper Demarcation- Furthermore, a time-bound court-monitored commission should be announced, with local communities participating in joint demarcation exercises.
    • Boundary disputes between the states can be settled by using satellite mapping of the actual border locations.
  • Cooperative federalism-India exemplifies unity in diversity. However, to further strengthen this unity, both the federal and state governments must embrace the cooperative federalism ethos.

Conclusion

  • Underdevelopment has acted as a catalyst in complicating knotty issues over land and other issues in the region, making sectarian tribalism the bane of the North-eastern States. The Northeastern states must recognize that they share a common fate. They must be sensitive to and accommodating of each other’s interests for the entire region to thrive.

Mains model question

  • Discuss the main causes of ethnic conflict between Mizoram and Assam. Suggest the measures to how Government should tackle the situation.

References