Tensions between Assam and Mizoram escalated again on Friday, after a school located along the states’ border was damaged in an explosion in Assam’s Cachar district. Both sides blamed each other for the attack. No casualties were immediately reported.
The Mizoram government said the blast took place at 2 am on a privately owned land in the district, substantially damaging a Bengali-medium school building in Phainuam. The government said it immediately deputed a team of the Mizoram Police led by Deputy Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Pu Lalbiakthanga at the site. A team of the state’s forensic team was also called in for examination, it said.
“The Government of Mizoram vehemently condemns such a dastardly act on an institution of learning and that too within its boundaries,” a statement read. “A case has been registered at Vairengte Police Station.”
Officials in Assam, meanwhile, alleged that “some miscreants” from Mizoram blew up the Upper Painom Lower Primary School. “We are trying our best to normalise the situation but the miscreants from Mizoram carried out the blast in the school in a forest area,” Assam’s Home Secretary GD Tripathi told The Hindu after officials in Cachar district inspected the site on Saturday. “We are strengthening our forces to avoid such incidents.” Tripathi added that state officials were in touch with the Mizoram government.
Mizoram’s Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo said the state government was monitoring the situation. “We are making all efforts to ensure things do not flare up,” he told the newspaper. “The central forces have arrived and we are in the process of deploying them.”
Mizoram was carved out of Assam in 1972, when it became a separate Union Territory. In 1987, it became a full-fledged state. The three South Assam districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj share a 164.6 kilometre-long border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts. The boundary between the two states is disputed at several points. Assam and Mizoram have often sparred over it, sometimes violently. Several rounds of dialogue, at various levels, since 1994 have failed to resolve the disagreement.
Tensions between the two states resumed in early October when the Assam government launched an “eviction drive” along a disputed part of the border, between Karimganj district and Mizoram’s Mamit district. A farm house and crops were reportedly burned down.
The Mizoram government responded by deploying forces in what Assam claims is its territory. The Mizos, for their part, insisted that they were only “defending their land”.
Meanwhile, violent clashes began on October 17 in another disputed area in the east at the Cachar-Kolasib section of the boundary. The two sides blame each other for the violence that injured several people. The border dispute also assumed an ethnic tinge as Mizo civil society groups claimed that those behind the violence from Assam were “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh trying to take over Mizo land.
On October 21, the Mizoram government had agreed to pull back troops from the Assam border, where violent clashes had erupted on October 17 between the residents of the two states. The tensions also cut off supply of resources to Mizoram as Assam residents blocked highways, connecting the two states, from October 18. Mizo groups reportedly responded by organising their own blockade, preventing truckers from going to Assam.
Tensions stirred again on November 3, after a 45-year old man from Assam’s Cachar district died in the custody of Mizoram Police. Two days later, the Centre deployed additional forces for Assam to maintain peace along the state’s borders with Mizoram.