Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that a long-term solution to the state’s border dispute with Mizoram can come from the Supreme Court, reported The Indian Express on Tuesday.
“I am sure the healing process is going on with Mizoram,” he told the newspaper in an interview. “At some point of time, with the active cooperation of the government of India, we will be able to work together. A permanent solution, I think, will be from the Supreme Court of India.”
Assam and Mizoram share a 164.6-km-long border, which has long been a cause of dispute. Tensions escalated along the Assam-Mizoram border on July 26 after reports of firing and clashes between the police of the two states emerged.
During the clashes, five Assam Police officers died. The Mizoram government claimed that around 200 Assam Police personnel had crossed a duty post manned by the Central Reserve Police Force and state police in Vairengte town in Kolasib district.
The clashes broke out two days after the states held a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Shillong on the dispute.
In the interview, Sarma said that while other states use historical facts to claim lands, Assam has not demanded anything. “We have been given these territories saying these are your constitutional boundaries and you manage it,” he said. “People of Assam did not create these boundaries...But we are being looked at with suspicion.”
The chief minister said that if the Supreme Court can look into the history, the administrative decisions of the governments and decide the boundaries, Assam would have no problem with it.
“Like the Supreme Court took up the dispute with Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, the apex court can take a decision,” Sarma said. “The Supreme Court has the mandate to decide on the inter-state boundary dispute. The matter is pending... If the Supreme Court takes a decision, we will be grateful.”
Sarma also blamed the earlier Congress government at the Centre for the border disputes among the northeastern states. The Assam chief minister alleged that the Congress felt a united Northeast could not be governed and so it played “divisive politics” in this region.
He claimed that the Congress government did not define the boundaries of Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya when they were carved out.
“It was a time when the Congress had governments in every state,” said Sarma, who was with the Congress before he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2015. “Had they made efforts and made the demarcation clear, the situation would have been different.”
Sarma also defended the BJP-led central government for failing to resolve the dispute. “The home ministry from day one has been trying to diffuse the tension,” he said. “For the last six months, the home ministry has been working very hard to make the states reach an agreement over the borders. But unfortunately, it did not have a result for some reasons.”
The chief minister said that after the July 26 incident, the ministry was trying to ensure that no more clashes take place.
Sarma also told The Indian Express that travel advisory against Mizoram citizens was only a preventive measure.
“If someone goes there and some untoward incident happens, the conflict becomes even worse,” the chief minister said. “...But we have also issued another advisory to protect the lives and properties of Mizo people in Assam. I do not know why everyone singled out only one advisory.”
Mizoram withdraws FIR against Assam officials
Meanwhile, the de-escalation process of the conflict between the two states continued on Monday, with Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga saying that he has asked the state police to drop the First Information Reports registered against Assam officials in connection with the July 26 clashes.
In a tweet, Zoramthanga said that the decision to withdraw the FIR was taken in “order to build a conducive atmosphere for amicable solution”.
In response to the order, Sarma also said that he would reciprocate Zoramthanga’s gesture and drop the cases against Mizoram officials. Sarma said he would also send ministers Atul Bora and Ashok Singhal to Mizoram for a dialogue.
On Sunday, the Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuango had said the state government would withdraw the FIR filed against Sarma. The next day, Sarma announced that he has directed the police to withdraw the FIR registered against Mizo National Front MP K Vanlalvena as a “goodwill gesture”.
The developments came after Shah spoke with Sarma and Zoramthanga to arrive at a peaceful resolution of the border dispute. “Both the state governments are cooperating and the central government is assured that there will be no more border flare-ups,” a central government official told PTI.