Mizoram, Assam told to resolve dispute

Rajnath convenes meeting

Members of the Mizoram Journalist Association during the sit-in on Tuesday. Picture by Henry L. Khojol

New Delhi: Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday asked Mizoram and Assam to take all measures to mutually and amicably resolve their boundary row.

He has convened a meeting of the chief secretaries of the two states here on March 20, Satyendra Garg, joint secretary in charge of Northeast, said on Tuesday. Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba will chair the meeting.

"The home ministry is serious about resolving the dispute through amicable discussions and, if need be, the two chief ministers of the respective states will also be called for a dialogue," Garg said.

The move follows a letter from Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla to the home minister on Monday, requesting intervention in the boundary row that flared up last week. Trouble had broken out over the construction of a rest shed by Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), an influential students' body of Mizoram, on a plot of land claimed by Assam as its territory and by the MZP as a part of Mizoram. When Assam police tried to stop the student activists, a clash ensued. The MZP alleged lathicharge and firing by the police that injured 49 persons, including students and journalists.

Rajnath urged both the governments to maintain peace and public order along the boundary. He wrote to Lal Thanhawla, asking him to take all steps to defuse the escalating tension and prevent the assembly of people at Bairabi, a border town in Mizoram's Kolasib district.

Officials of Assam's Hailakandi district administration said following the communiqué, the adjoining Kolasib administration must take immediate steps to defuse the situation by not allowing the people to assemble. The administration is closely monitoring the situation following reports that the MZP will make another attempt to construct the resting shed on Wednesday. Security has been tightened along the boundary.

Kolasib district magistrate R. Zarzosanga clamped Section 144 of the CrPC in Kolasib district on Tuesday, prohibiting assembly of more than five people.

The Mizoram Journalist Association staged a peaceful statewide sit-in in protest against Assam police's brutality last week. It said at least eight journalists were injured and sought justice for them.

In Assam, former minister Siddique Ahmed urged chief secretary T.Y. Das to defuse the boundary tension that started at Kachurthal in Hailakandi district, adjoining Kolasib district of Mizoram. A team of AIUDF legislators, led by Katlicherra (in Hailakandi) MLA Suzam Uddin Laskar, also met chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, requesting his intervention for the sake of non-Mizos living in Mizoram and the people living along the boundary in Hailakandi. Students' organisations, including the Cachar district unit of Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India (NSUI), also demanded safeguarding of the interest of non-Mizos in Mizoram.

Sonowal had also sought the home ministry's intervention and spoken to his Mizoram counterpart over phone to resolve the boundary row amicably.

"The land at Bairabi (in Kolasib district of Mizoram) falls under a reserve forest which is now under the control of the Assam government," said Garg.

Sources in the home ministry said the Assam-Mizoram boundary conflict can be traced back to the British days when the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation was enacted in 1872 and amended by Assam chief secretary W.S. Cosgrave in 1933 to ward off movements and incursions by the Lushai and Kuki tribals into the undivided Cachar district.

Additional reporting by Henry L. Khojol in Aizawl and Our Correspondent in Hailakandi


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