On Monday (July 26) evening, a violent clash took place between the locals of Lailapur village (Cachar district) in Assam and Vairengte village (Kolasib district) in Mizoram. The conflict at the inter-state border comes amidst an ongoing dispute over alleged illegal encroachment in each other’s land.
As per reports, the conflict culminated in stone pelting, vandalism, arson, and gunfire. During the clash, around 6 Assam police personnel lost their lives while about 65 people, including civilians, were injured. Around 40 of those injured were admitted to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital for further medical treatment. According to an India Today report, about 2 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were deployed in the area to pacify the situation. Multiple videos have now surfaced on social media which shows the extent of the conflict between the two sides.
Following the violent clashes, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared his condolences for the fallen jawans. “I am deeply pained to inform that six brave jawans of @assampolice have sacrificed their lives while defending the constitutional boundary of our state at the Assam-Mizoram border.My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families,” he tweeted.
I am deeply pained to inform that six brave jawans of @assampolice have sacrificed their lives while defending constitutional boundary of our state at the Assam-Mizoram border.— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) July 26, 2021
My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.
In another tweet, Sarma informed, “I have just spoken to Hon’ble Chief Minister Zoramthanga. I have reiterated that Assam will maintain status quo and peace between the borders of our State. I have expressed my willingness to visit Aizawal and discuss these issues if need be.”
Hon’ble @himantabiswa ji, as discussed I kindly urge that Assam Police @assampolice be instructed to withdraw from Vairengte for the safety of civilians. @narendramodi @AmitShah @PMOIndia @HMOIndia https://t.co/wHtMPhFRpP— Zoramthanga (@ZoramthangaCM) July 26, 2021
While responding to the said tweet, Mizoram Chief Minister confirmed the meeting with Himanta Biswa Sarma and urged the withdrawal of Assam police from Vairengte village for the safety of civilians. In a statement, he emphasised, “The Government of Mizoram deeply regrets the needless injuries on both sides which could have been avoided. The Government of Mizoram desires that the inter-state border issue with Assam be resolved in an atmosphere of peace and understanding. Accordingly, we call upon the state of Assam to create a congenial environment for peaceful resolution of the dispute,”
The background of the Assam-Mizoram conflict
The long-standing territorial dispute began when Mizoram used to be a district of Assam. In the colonial era, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills and was demarcated from the Cachar plains in accordance with an 1875 notification. Subsequently, another notification was released by the British government in 1933 that drew a boundary between the Lushai Hills and Manipur. Mizoram wants the boundary demarcation to be followed as per the 1875 notification. In their defence, they claim that the Mizo society was not consulted prior to the 1933 notification. However, the Assam government follows the 1993 demarcation, which has become a bone of contention between the two States.
The situation at the interstate border became tense in June after Assam police accused Mizoram of encroaching its property and laid control on ‘Aitlanf hnar’, which is located about 5 km from Vairengte village. The Assamese officials have alleged that the neighbouring State has built structures and planted betel nut and banana saplings inside the Hailakandi district of Assam. In turn, Mizoram accused Assam of encroaching upon the State’s land in Kolasib district. On July 10, the Assam police conducted reportedly an eviction drive that allegedly led to the destruction of crops of a Mizo farmer.
According to SP (Kolasib district) Valalfaka Ralte, Assam police led by Hailakandi deputy Commissioner and SP entered Mizoram’s territory and began camping there on June 29. Disputing the claims, the Assam government clarified that a team of Divisional Forest Officer Montaj Ali, Border DSP Nirmal Ghosh was stopped by Mizo encroachers which forced them to return. Currently, both the States share a 165 km border and negotiation attempts made since 1995 have yielded no results so far.
Earlier, similar clashes took place between the two sides on October 9 last year when Lailapur (Assam) locals allegedly built temporary huts in no-man’s land in the border area. The Mizos then set the huts on fire in retaliation. Mizoram officials had then claimed that the Assamese side broke the status quo and that the land was by Mizo cultivators since time immemorial.
Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli had then clarified that the land belonged to the Assam government as per records. Similarly, Karimganj DC Anbamuthan MP conceded that the disputed land fell within the Singla Forest Reserve that comes under Krimganj’s jurisdiction. He however conceded that the land was used by Mizo cultivators for a long time. Reportedly, Mizo civil groups often blame illegal Bangladeshi settlers in Assam for the repeated escalations.