On Saturday, April 24, former President of All Cachar Karimganj Hailakandi Students’ Association (ACKHSA), Rupam Nandi Purkayastha went to the Assam Mizoram-border to stage demonstrations in the Rengti Hills area of Lailapur. In conversation with the press, he stated that not even an inch of Assam’s land would be ceded. He further added that a strong movement will be initiated if necessary.
Rupam Nandi Purkayastha led an ACKHSA representative group to the state border area to take stock of the situation there. The group met the locals and made enquiries about the issues they were facing. The group then gathered with the locals and raised slogans holding placards against Mizo aggression. Locals allege that Mizos have been carrying out illegal construction despite the presence of the BSF and the SSB. They further allege that when they enter the forests in the Rengti Hills to collect firewood, the Mizos point guns at them to drive them away. All complaints they have registered in this regard have come to no avail. The locals further said that the Mizos had taken over the hills during the Assam state assembly elections. They say life has become harder for residents of Assam in those areas under such circumstances.
Last year, a road blockade on NH 306 (earlier called NH 54) had cut off transportation and supplies to Mizoram for around two weeks at a stretch. This blockade by locals in Lailapur in Assam started around October 28 and was finally lifted on November 11 after the centre intervened on November 8 to mediate between the two states.
After the mediation by the centre, Mizoram withdrew the state forces from the disputed border areas and deployed the Border Security Force (BSF) there. Similarly, the Sashakt Seema Bal (SSB) was stationed on Assam’s side.
According to Assam Police, the blockade was triggered by the burning of some shops along NH-306 by unidentified miscreants from Vairengte in Mizoram. This act of arson was allegedly carried out in response to the demolition of a Covid checkpoint set up by the Mizo village of Saihapui-V and manned by the villagers with the Mizoram police. The demolition was carried out by residents of Assam’s Hawaithang village and the Assam police. The Assam police then set up its own post there after dismantling the Mizo checkpoint. Two schools run by the Assam government were also bombed on October 24 and November 6. The Mizos claim the schools are within their state territory.
On November 2, Intazul Laskar of Lailapur breathed his last in a hospital in Mizoram’s Kolasib district after he was reportedly handed over to Mizoram’s excise and narcotics department the previous day on charges of selling drugs. However, as per the Assam police, Laskar had no previous record of criminal activity. The post-mortem report issued by the Silchar Medical College and Hospital attributed Laskar’s death to “coma as a result of health injury caused by blunt object”. All these events culminated in the blockade.
Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts in South Assam share a 164.6 km long border with the Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts in Mizoram. The point of contention in this border dispute is that Mizoram’s perception of its border is based on an 1875 notification sourced from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873. Assam however perceives its border based on a 1933 notification by the state government that demarcated the Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) from the province of Manipur. However, this border issue has also assumed an ethnic colour as Muslim residents of the area are being accused of being Bangladeshi illegal immigrants by the Mizos.