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Exclusive| Mizoram border dispute: Working on practical solutions, says Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma speaking to mediapersons on the the meeting over Assam-Mizoram border dispute, in Guwahati recently.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Returning to the 19th century border demarcation as being demanded by Mizoram may be impractical but a resolution can be found to the border dispute between the two States, Assam Chief Minister Himanata Biswa Sarma has said. Six policemen and a bystander were killed in clashes between the police forces of the two States arising out of the dispute on July 26.

Also read: Opinion | A guide to resolving the Assam-Mizoram issue

Two conflicting demarcations of the borders between communities on both sides — one in 1875 and another in 1933 — are at the root of the dispute. The Mizos want the 1875 demarcation to prevail.

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Talking to The Hindu ahead of his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday, Mr. Sarma rejected the suggestion that he made provocative statements regarding Assam’s border disputes with Mizoram. “I spoke only after the killing of our policemen. If I do not speak for them, I would be letting them down. You must understand that Assam police have been fighting ULFA and other insurgencies for a long time. We cannot allow their morale to drop,” he said. Asked whether he had a larger role to play in reconciliation, considering that he was also the BJP pointsman for the entire Northeast, Mr. Sarma said his priority was to protect the interest of Assam. “I am the CM of Assam first, and I cannot sacrifice the interests of the State. We are in touch with Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. At some point, I will also speak to Mizoram CM, with whom I have a good personal relationship,” he said.

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The ambiguities regarding boundaries between Assam, and States such as Meghalaya and Mizoram were allowed to fester for a long time, and now issues had become more complicated, Mr. Sarma said. “These issues should have been resolved decades ago. Now that we are here, we have to be careful that our attempts to solve the problems should not lead to worse problems,” he said. “I came only two month ago.”

Also read: Centre to use satellite mapping to resolve NE border disputes

Beef restriction for communal harmony

Mr. Sarma said the three moves of the government in the first months — restrictions on beef sale and consumption, population control measures, and the formation of a department for indigenous faiths and culture — were meant to promote social harmony, rejecting allegations that they were promoting Hindutva politics. “I am talking from a different perspective…Not the rightist connotations that are being alleged...When I am talking of protecting indigenous culture, I am talking of the impact, not only of conversions but also of Sankritisation...Quran, Vedas or Bible...whatever it may be...We have to ensure that the traditional cultures do not get erased.”

“I am here to offer a healing touch...A real kind development. That development can be impeded by large family sizes and Muslim leaders are completely in agreement with me on this. Statistics and projections are ok, but we know the ground situation, that large sizes often limit the capacity of families to come out of poverty.” The Chief Minister said the Assam government had formed eight sub-groups with representatives of indigenous Muslim community to focus on issues such as health, education, skill development, preservation of cultural identity, financial inclusion, women empowerment etc. The Assam government has recently announced a raft of measures to incentivise small families and penalise large ones, specially focused on Muslims. Mr. Sarma said population control had been a topic close to his heart even when he was in the Congress. “I wrote my first article calling for it in 2001” he said.

Mr. Sarma said the restrictions on beef was also intended to bring down communal tensions. A recent law in Assam criminalises slaughter and consumption of beef in Hindu, Jain and Sikh majority areas and within a within a five-km radius of their places of worship. “We are not stopping anyone from eating what they eat. By bringing in these restriction, we are trying to stop the conflicts arising out beef. The feedback that we have as of now is that all communities are happy [about the new law]. Far from creating any communal tension, the new law will ensure communal harmony,” Mr. Sarma said.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:50:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/exclusive-mizoram-border-dispute-working-on-practical-solutions-says-assam-cm-himanta-biswa-sarma/article35808859.ece

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