North-Eastern State Clashes: India's Assam State Chief Links Violence to Cow Bill, High Alert
The Indian states of Assam and Mizoram share a roughly 100-mile disputed border. The boundary dispute between the two has been simmering since Mizoram was formed as a separate state in the 1980s. Several rounds of talks have been held since 1995 to resolve the tensions between the two sides.
Days after policemen from north-eastern India’s Assam state died during an exchange of fire with law enforcement from the neighbouring Mizoram state, the Assam government’s chief, Himanta Biswa Sarma, claimed a crackdown on narcotics smuggling and the new Cattle Preservation Bill triggered the violence.
Seven police officers from Assam state died when an inter-state border quarrel between the former and Mizoram turned ugly on 27 July. Both states, including their chiefs, have offered their own versions of the day's events.
However, it is still unclear which side started firing.
In July, the Assam government passed the Cattle Preservation Bill, which is designed primarily to impose a complete ban on transporting cattle outside the state. The bill was criticised by several Christian and Muslim-dominated states, including Mizoram, where beef is part of the general diet and is mainly transported via Assam.
Suggesting that drug dealers could have had a hand in Monday's violence, Sarma further alleged, "Drugs route originates in Myanmar and passes through Mizoram and Assam's Barak Valley all the way to Punjab state".
"How should civilians in battle fatigues and in bulletproof vests turn up at the border to attack our policemen with sniper rifles? I have video evidence. I think it should be investigated whether certain non-actors entered the fray", Sarma added.
Meanwhile, intervening in the matter, the federal Home Ministry on Wednesday chaired a meeting in New Delhi with Mizoram's chief secretary, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, and state senior police officer S.B.K. Singh over the dispute along the Assam-Mizoram border.
After the meeting, Chuaungo said that a discussion is in progress and that the parties would be reconvening for another meeting soon.
On Monday, security forces were put on high alert at all vulnerable points along the Assam and Mizoram inter-state boundary to thwart any untoward incidents.
Mizoram was part of Assam until 1972, initially became a union territory, and then a state in 1987.
The dispute stems from the demarcation of the border done on two different dates. While Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated based on the 1875 notification (that differentiated Lushai Hills — what Mizoram was called when it was a district of Assam — from the plains of Cachar), while Assam follows the 1933 notification that demarcates the boundary.
Although, incidents of altercations have been reported in the past, they were resolved due to the states' intervention. However, the situation has become volatile along the border of both states since June, when two abandoned houses in the Hailakandi District, near the Mizoram-Assam border, were set ablaze.
Since then, both states have been camping on either side of the border. On 9 July, a chief-secretary level meeting of both states was held in Delhi, which was inconclusive.