Border dispute with Assam likely to dominate Mizoram’s year-end polls

Mizo nationalism is always the core issue in the politics of Mizoram, which will go to the assembly polls at the end of this year.

However, the long pending inter-state boundary issue with Assam is likely to be one of the main issues in the elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, who is also the president of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), talking to IANS about the political situation in his state said that the assembly elections are about one year away, and the situation may change in the next several months.

“About the next assembly polls, this is too early to say anything. I am unable to predict now about the pre-poll scenario. In politics, lots of change can happen in one month,” said the veteran leader, who is now holding the office of the Chief Minister for the third term (1998-2003, 2003-2008 and 2018 to 2023).

Unlike other Indian states, political activity in the Christian dominated Mizoram is not visible except during election time.

Society driven organisations and NGOs, specially the Young Mizo Association (YMA) traditionally dominate most issues and happenings.

Following the initiatives of the YMA and the Mizo society the electioneering process is always a smooth affair with least rivalry.

Though there are five to six local parties, the Congress, the only national party that ruled the northeastern state for 10 consecutive years until 2018, secured only five seats in the 2018 assembly polls. The party however, is the principal opposition party in the mountainous state.

Octogenarian former Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who led the Congress in Mizoram for a record around five decades (1973-2021), became the Chief Minister of the state five times between 1984 and 2018.

In 2018, Lal Thanhawla lost the two seats — Serchhip and Champhai South — from where he contested. He had earlier announced that he would not contest the 2023 assembly elections.

In 1986, when the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed between the Union government and the erstwhile insurgent outfit MNF, Lal Thanhawla, a close friend of former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi, stepped down from the chief minister’s post to make way for MNF leader Laldenga.

Over 30,500 Myanmar nationals sheltered in the northeastern state after the military seized power in the country through a coup in February 2021 while around 390 Kuki-Chin tribals, following troubles, fled from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of southeast Bangladesh and took shelter in Mizoram since November 20 last year.

Irrespective of party affiliations, all the Mizoram political parties including the Congress and the BJP, which has a lone member in the assembly, have been supporting the government in dealing with the Myanmar and Bangladesh refugees.

Chief Minister Zoramthanga told IANS that all the opposition parties are fully cooperating with the state government in handling the refugee issue.

The ruling MNF is a constituent of the BJP-led anti-Congress alliance the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

Congress turned BJP leader and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is one of the main strategists of the saffron party in the region, is the convener of NEDA, the northeast unit of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

However, relations between the leaders of the BJP and the ruling MNF in Mizoram are not so cordial on many issues.

In the last assembly election in 2018, the MNF, which returned to power after ten years, secured 27 seats in the 40-member house followed by five seats by the Congress and one seat by the BJP’s Buddha Dhan Chakma.

Seven independent members supported by the local parties were also elected in the 2018 polls.

There are many state parties that played an important role in Mizoram politics. They include the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC), Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), Peoples Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM) and Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM).

According to political pundits, the Assam-Mizoram inter-state border dispute is likely to be the key issue in the assembly elections, due in November-December this year.

Several ministerial-level meetings have been held in Aizawl and Guwahati on the border dispute with both sides agreeing to maintain peace and harmony among communities living on both sides of the border with a view to further strengthen their age-old ties.

In the last meeting held in November last year it was decided that Mizoram would furnish the list of villages, their areas, geo-spatial extent, ethnicity of the people and other relevant information within three months to support their claim which can be examined by setting up regional committees from both sides to arrive at an amicable resolution of the vexed issue.

The 164.6-km inter-state border has Assam’s Cachar, Hailakandi, and Karimganj districts abutting Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga held two Chief Minister-level meetings in Delhi and decided to resolve the situation much like Assam’s disputes with Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

The worst-ever violence on the Assam-Mizoram border occurred on July 26, 2021 when the Assam and Mizoram Police exchanged fire in the disputed area near Vairengte village on National Highway 306, leaving six Assam Police personnel dead and many injured.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

20230115-150807

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