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Border dispute: Mizoram’s claims not based on demography

Aizawl: Mizoram’s assertion regarding the ownership of 62 villages within the contested area with Assam is not contingent upon demographic factors, clarified a senior official from Mizoram’s home department on Sunday.

In an email communication dated October 7, the Assam government reiterated its position that the 62 villages situated in the border dispute region between Mizoram and Assam, as asserted by the Mizoram government, do not have any Mizo inhabitants.

This correspondence from Assam represents their response to claims submitted by the Mizoram government in February 2023. Contents of the letter, however, was published in an English newspaper published from Guwahati on October 5.

The mail says, “Border Protection and Development department of the Assam government sent that list to the respective district commissioners in the Barak Valley. After field verification, the three district commissioners of the Barak Valley informed Dispur that the villages that the Mizoram government claimed as theirs have no Mizo habitation.”

The department also sought Mizoram’s date for the next round of talks on boundary issues between the two states. In its reply letter, the Mizoram government said that they prefer to sit for boundary issues with Assam after the Lok Sabha election, according to the newspaper report on Thursday.

A senior official of the Mizoram home department, on the condition of anonymity, said that Mizoram government never claimed that the 62 villages are inhabited by Mizos.

He said that a notification issued in 1875 under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 by the Governor-in-Council said that the inner line was the international boundary between Cachar and the Lushai country. “This is our stance that the area belonged to Mizoram,” he said.

“There is a sizable number of Mizo populace in Jampui Hills of Tripura and surrounding areas, but Mizoram never claimed the area as within Mizoram. There is also a large area in Cachar district of Assam and Manipur hill districts, inhabited by a large number of Mizos which is never being claimed by Mizoram as its territory,” he said.

He said that Mizoram claimed the 62 villages not because the villages are inhabited by Mizo population, but the area in which the villages situated was within Lushai country (now Mizoram) in accordance with the 1875 notification.

No human settlements would be there in 1875, as the area under which the 62 villages falls, was declared as the Inner Line Forest Reserve by the British government, he said. “We know that there are no Assamese settlers there and the present settlers must be illegal immigrants from the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh),” he said.

Inhabitants of the area claimed by Mizoram should be declared as illegal settlers, who encroached on inner line reserve forest, he said. 

There is a document of the British government confirming that 46 international boundary pillars erected by the then British officials which served as demarcation between Cachar (British India) and the Lushai country (Mizoram), he said.

The official confirmed that the state home department preferred to hold the next round of negotiations on border dispute issue with Assam after the state assembly elections, for which the poll dates can be announced by the Election Commission of India on any day, and after the Parliamentary polls scheduled to be held in early next year.

He also reiterated the desire of the state home department that the detailed nitty-gritties should first be deliberated by both the officials of the two neighbouring states in official level talks before involving ministers of the two states.

“Unless we face a deadlock during the parleys and required political intervention to break the stalemate, there is no reason for ministerial level negotiations while deliberating detailed modalities,” he opined. 

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