Another such clash erupted between Mizoram and Assam on the morning of 26th July 2021 at the border between Assam’s Cachar and Mizoram’s Kolasib district, which sequentially is the disputed land area.
However, this is not a fresh happenstance- the quarrel over the said border, dates back to the British Era. Mizoram was formerly the Lushai Hills District of Assam Province and was later declared a secluded region in 1935; subsequently, it was declared a Union Territory in 1972 and granted statehood in 1987.
In 1875 a notification was issued that distinguished the Lushai Hills from the Plains of Cachar (in Assam); thereafter another notification issued in 1933, demarcated the border between Cachar and Manipur. Mizos argues that the 1933 notification was issued by the British Government without consultation with their ancestors and thus it is unethical therefore the 1875 notification should be official.
On the other hand, Assam declares that the same reasoning can be given for the the1875 Notification; hence the 1933 notification is to be accepted and followed. This became the bone of contention between the two states.
The clash that took place on Monday eventually resulted in disastrous fatalities on Assam’s side, as 5 members of its Police personnel were shot dead in an open fire by the Mizo policemen and more than 50 people (some estimate around 80) including civilians were dangerously injured.
As can be anticipated, Assam C.M. Himanta Biswa Sarma, immediately took to Twitter to pin blames of insurgency and non-cooperation on Mizoram and its CM Zoramthanga blatantly claiming that Mizoram personnel open-fired on their policemen without reason at the same time demanding action against Mizoram by tagging Home Minister Amit Shah.
Since then a Twitter war has also erupted between the two chief ministers, each of them escalating the crisis even further.
Reportedly having no fatalities has made the situation more challenging for Mizoram. However, some sources, particularly a video on social media revealed that a local Mizo journalist who got intertwined between the firing allegedly yelled on-site “ASSAM SHOT FIRST! ASSAM DREW THE FIRST SHOT!” Consequently, firing up things against Assam as ‘#Assamshotfirst’ trends on social media, at a time when Himanta Biswa Sarma issued a statement saying that Assam has always been open for the verbal resolution of conflict by holding negotiations. The Kolasib SP himself allegedly told the North-Eastern Chronicle:
“While we were holding talks, the tension between civilians from both sides escalated and that’s when I heard shots being fired towards the Mizo civilians. At that moment I was completely unarmed as I set out towards them to hold a peaceful conversation with my counterpart but as Assam police fired shots towards our unarmed civilians, that’s when Mizoram police forces opened fire. For a moment, I was completely numb when shots rang out from both sides and I just happened to take cover behind a barricade, thanks to my PSO’s situational awareness. He grabbed me by my arms and we rolled down to a hill that connects to a CRPF camp but we were denied protection by the CRPF forces so we had to take cover by the bushes as we were technically behind the enemy lines as both sides exchanged heavy gunfire”.
Expectedly leading to perpetual blame games between the two states. It is to be noted that the northeast is a BJP dominated constituency and vastly all the major states have the NDA alliance in power, including Assam and Mizoram.
More interestingly, the attempts of Home Minister Amit Shah to negotiate peace by holding meetings between the two states have very clearly failed; which curates the questions of:-
- How much did he really try to resolve conflict?
- Could it be that BJP is gradually losing influence over its own party members and allies?
Even if Assam shot first at Mizo civilians- was an acute open fire in retaliation still justified? The open fire led to dire consequences like deaths, with an exchange of shootings from both ends alongside tear gas canister explosions for a total of 45 minutes. The battle would’ve culminated into a war, had Assam not surrendered first by waving a white shirt in the air.
An obvious end to this would be if each side accepts their respective blunders and tries to move above their disagreements; which seems easy on paper, but pragmatically, is more difficult than going to war with each other.
It is a long-standing fight between siblings and it is up to Home Minister Amit Shah whether or not he will choose to play guardian once again, and this time will hopefully succeed in restoring harmony.