“Mizoram will not withdraw all of its forces from Assam border”: Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, Chief Secretary
Tension continues to prevail in the inter state border areas between Assam and Mizoram. Chief Secretary of Assam Jishnu Baruah and his counterpart in Mizoram Lalnunmawia Chuaungo met Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla virtually yesterday, to find a solution. Mizoram alleged that Assam has installed blockades on the National Highway to intentionally disrupt the lifeline of Mizoram. Assam maintained that none of the Government agencies are involved in this blockade and it is the locals terrorised by Mizo forces, who have resorted to doing so.
What started as a border-dispute between two neighbouring states has now boiled into a serious law and order situation. Houses have been burnt, schools have been bombed and a resident of Assam was found dead in the custody of Mizoram.
After the meeting yesterday, the Government of Assam escorted 21 trucks to Mizoram to keep its word. However, the locals have threatened another blockade as they find Mizo forces continue to guard territories inside Assam. The Mizoram, on the other hand, claims that those are all parts of Mizoram and the government is well within its rights to deploy forces in those areas.
The chief secretary of Assam, Baruah said it time and again that the boundaries of Assam are sacrosanct as per the map of Survey of India. “There are provisions to change the boundary of a state but to do so, one must approach the parliament with appropriate provisions under the constitution of India,” said Baruah.
In an exclusive interview with Barak Bulletin, the chief secretary of Mizoram Lalnunmawia Chuaungo rubbished the Survey of India map and said it’s drawn out of “imagination” and has never been verified. He blamed the government of Assam for the tension and asserted that the law and order situation has been provoked by it. Most importantly, he made it clear that the government of Mizoram will not withdraw all of its forces unless it believes normalcy has returned.
Edited excerpts of the exclusive interview:
Yesterday, in the meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary certain commitments were made by Mizoram, how long do you think it will take for you to implement those on the ground?
We have already implemented everything. Whatever was discussed yesterday, we have complied with it fully. It is the Assam government that has not done it. They have only escorted a few trucks that were stranded in Mizoram House, nothing else. The commitment was that the Highway will be opened and all the trucks will be allowed to move to Mizoram. Barak Valley has a very big business relationship with Mizoram. It is the biggest customer for Barak Valley after the internal market, so, this blockade does not benefit anybody. How is it justified for a State Government to block a National Highway?
The Assam government has placed it on record that the road blockade has not been done by any of the government agencies, it is the locals who have blocked the road as there are armed men inside the territory of Assam?
It is very much the Assam Government which has blocked the road. There are a few people who are being used by the State Government as the face of the blockade. We have very clear evidence and proof of the fact that the Assam Government has used its machinery to block the National Highway which is the lifeline of a neighbouring state. It is illegal whatever the Assam Government has been doing for the last two weeks. There are certain laws of the land that prohibits the blockade of National Highway.
While you blame the Assam Government, it is true that Mizoram has deployed forces inside Assam’s territory?
Not at all! These are not Assam’s area, these are disputed land and the dispute has been there for a long time. It is Assam that is breaking the Status quo.
When you say this is not Assam’s territory, don’t you reject the map of state as earmarked by the Government of India’s Surveyor General?
There is no demarcation, there is no ground verification. Whatever map has been drawn, it has been drawn on the table on paper without any verification on the ground. None of these boundary lines drawn by Survey of India is verified on the ground. Survey of India map is based on imagination and their understanding. So, according to us, all the land we claim are within Mizoram.
We have ourselves seen that Mizo forces are three kilometers inside Assam’s territory…
No no no, these are not Assam’s land, in fact, it is Assam which is occupying our land.
On one side you say there is no demarcation and then you claim to know the boundary of the state, as you are saying that Assam is occupying Mizoram’s land, are you not contradicting yourself?
Not at all! When Assam says it is Assam’s land and we claim it is our land, that means it is disputed land. That is why I said, the boundary has not been demarcated. This has been a disputed land for so long and a few hundred meetings have taken place where it has been mentioned that it is disputed land. The dispute goes back to the time when Mizoram was a part of Assam as a district. Mizos have been unfairly treated since then as some migrants came and occupied their land.
What about the withdrawal of forces, will you withdraw them or not?
We have removed whatever we have promised based on the discussion yesterday. When there is so much tension and so many people coming in from Assam and damaging our properties, Mizoram will not withdraw all of its forces from Assam-border. We need to have some forces deployed on the ground. This is to provide security to our people and supervise the area. What we want is normalcy should restore.
While you say people of Assam are damaging properties, the fact is, houses have been burnt in Assam, schools are bombed and a resident of Assam has been killed…
Whatever incidents have happened has all been provoked by Assam. A DC has gone with local civilians and burnt a farmhouse of a Mizo villager. This land was owned by the Mizo people and they have been cultivating there since 1961. Why did the DC go and burn that farmland? Due to the outbreak of a pandemic, a temporary Police outpost was built by the Village Council, the DC along with civilians had demolished that too. Mizoram never started these problems. After all these incidents, the Mizoram government is compelled to put Police personnel. Whatever we had to withdraw as per the discussion with Home Secretary, we have already withdrawn.
When Cachar’s DC and SP went to the border to inspect the school that was bombed, there were civilians pointing guns at them? Is it an attempt to terrorise Civil servants on duty?
What we saw from pictures is those were airguns. Now, these people are the villagers and the stuff is happening in their village. Because of the ongoing tension, they have probably come out with guns. I don’t think it is to threaten anybody, in fact, I believe they have come out with guns to defend themselves in their own land and that’s all. These are not outsiders, they are the people of that village.
Defend themselves with guns from IAS and IPS officers? Cachar DC and SP were denied passage via a bridge constructed by the Government of Assam, in fact, the leader of the opposition was stopped too? Will you call it “defending”
Well, yes, maybe some portion of the road and the bridge was constructed by the government of Assam but that does not make it the territory of Assam, it remains disputed land. It does not matter to the villagers if the bridge is built by Assam or Mizoram, whatever is there, they welcome.
Did you discuss the boundary issue with the Union Home Secretary yesterday?
Yes, it was discussed yesterday and the Union Home Secretary said that the boundary issue will be discussed separately in an appropriate forum. What we decided yesterday is that the Government will withdraw some of its forces and we have already done it. Our forces in some areas have been replaced by the BSF jawans sent by the Government of India. In other areas, as I said, we are compelled to keep our forces till normalcy returns.
What would you say about the two schools that have been bombed, who do you think did it?
Those are unfortunate incidents. No children should be denied the opportunity of education and therefore, those schools must be rebuilt. We will ensure that the culprits are caught and I can assure that there won’t be any ignorance. As far as who did it, the investigation is going on, we have involved top officers to investigate the case. So, it won’t be fair for me to make a comment when the investigation is on its way.
Lastly, how do you think this will end?
None of the recent troubles were started by Mizoram, it was always Assam. We need to realise that the solution does not lie in road blockades or violence. Assam is a big brother, actually not a big brother but a parent. We have so much economic interest in having a good relationship with Barak Valley. At the end of the day, Barak Valley and Mizoram cannot live without each other. The dispute must be handled through dialogues in a civilised manner following the law of the land. We gain nothing by harming people from the other side. It is in the interest of both, we live in peace and harmony.
Edited by: Biswakalyan (Tilak) Purkayastha and Anirban Roy Choudhury. For feedback write to firstname.lastname@example.org