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Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute

  Aug 08, 2021

Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute

Q Why is it in News ?

A Recently, several IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts were carried out inside Cachar district of Assam allegedly by miscreants from Mizoram. These blasts signal the re-emergence of long-unresolved Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute.

  • The boundary issue between Assam and Mizoram has existed since the formation of Mizoram  first as a union territory in 1972, and then as a full-fledged state in 1987.
  • During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, a district of Assam.
  • Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987 by the State of Mizoram Act, 1986.
  • Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and the early 1970s.
  • In India, Inter-state disputes are multifaceted, besides disputes over boundaries, there are disputes over sharing of water (rivers) and migration also impacts the federal polity of India.

Q What are the reasons of boundary dispute ? 

  • The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of British Raj.
  • The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from two notifications passed under British era.
    • First, notification of 1875, that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar.
    • Second, notification of 1933, that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
    • Mizo leaders are against the demarcation notified in 1933, according to them, the Mizo society was not consulted.
    • On the other hand, the Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation.
    • As a result both states continue to have a differing perception of the border and that is the point of conflict.
  • There is a 164.6-km inter-state border that separates Assam and Mizoram, with the three Assam districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj sharing a border with Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts of Mizoram.
  • Further, the boundary between Mizoram and Assam follows naturally occurring barriers of hills, valleys, rivers and forests, and both sides have attributed border clashes to perceptional differences over an imaginary line.
  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.

Q  What is overall condition of Inter-state Disputes in India ?

  • Issue of Boundary: Boundary disputes between the states are one of major reasons for Inter-state disputes in India. For example,
    • Karnataka and Maharashtra both lay claim to Belgaum, and every now and then the matter comes up.
    • The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, changed the political map of northeast India, by establishment of the states like Manipur and Tripura and the formation of Meghalaya.
      • However, this reorganisation has resulted in many boundary disputes in the northeastern region, like Assam-Nagaland, Assam-Meghalaya, etc.
  • Issue of Migration: There have been violent agitations in some states over migrants and job seekers from other states.
    • This is because the existing resources and the employment opportunities are not enough to meet the needs of the growing population.
    • The ‘sons of the soil’ concept for preference in employment in the states concerned tends to destroy the roots of a healthy federalism.
  • Disputes over Sharing Water Resources: The most long standing and contentious inter-state issue has been the sharing of river waters.
    • Most of the Indian rivers are inter-state, i.e., they flow through more than one state.
    • Due to an increase in demand for water, a number of inter state disputes over sharing river waters have surfaced.

Q What can be Way Forward ?

  • Boundary disputes between the states can be settled by using satellite mapping of the actual border locations.
  • Reviving the Inter-state council can be an option for resolution of an Inter-state dispute.
    • 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.
  • Similarly, Zonal councils need to be revived to discuss the matters of common concern to states in each zone—matters relating to social and economic planning, border disputes, inter-state transport, etc.
  • India is the epitome of unity in diversity. However, in order to strengthen this unity furthermore, both the centre and state governments, need to imbibe the ethos of cooperative federalism.