A joint committee constituted by Assam and Mizoram under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday began an exercise to identify illegal structures along a disputed stretch of the 164.6 km border between the two states.
The border area has been tense since March when members of the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (students’ union) attempted to construct a resting shed on a disputed spot it claimed was donated by the widow of Mizoram’s first Chief Minister Ch. Chhunga. Several students and eight Mizoram journalists, including two women, were injured in the resulting stand-off with the Assam Police.
“The identification of illegal structures is within the 509 sq mile Inner-Line Reserve Forest straddling the boundary. The MHA had set April 30 as the deadline to identify all illegal structures along the border, and if weather permits, we hope to finish the exercise soon,” Adil Khan, Deputy Commissioner of southern Assam’s Hailakandi district, told The Hindu.
The joint committee consists of forest, police and administrative officials of Hailakandi and Cachar districts in Assam and Kolasib district in Mizoram. Cachar district’s chief conservator of forest Vinay Gupta and conservator of forest of Mizoram’s central circle Lalthlamuana Pachuau are heading the exercise.
Mr. Khan said the exercise began on Thursday from Kachurthal area of Hailakandi district. “Rains are likely to be a factor in the exercise on a difficult terrain comprising dense forest, hills and rivers,” he added.
The committee was formed after MHA’s joint secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg led a fact-finding team to the disputed areas on March 27.
Officials of both states said they have been organising community-level meetings along the troubled border to instil a sense of security and confidence among the people living there.
Meanwhile, Mizoram’s nodal officer for Border Area Development Programme (BADP) Paul L Khuma said the State spent ₹39.93 crore of the ₹46 crore received from MHA under the programme during the 2017-18 fiscal. The remaining amount has been earmarked for the current fiscal.
Mizoram shares an international border of 818.19 km, of which 502.19 km is with Myanmar and 316 km with Bangladesh. BADP in the State began in the 1993-94 fiscal in four rural development blocks along the Bangladesh border. The programme was extended to the eastern side of Mizoram’s border with Myanmar three years later.