With the Centre prodding the Assam and Mizoram governments to dial down tensions after almost a week of the standoff at the border, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that while the “healing process is on”, a long-term solution to the “complex” issue is in the hands of the Supreme Court.
“If the Supreme Court can look into the history, various governments’ administrative decisions and decide the boundaries, Assam has no issue… A permanent solution, I think, will be from the Supreme Court of India. If it takes decisions… the issue will be resolved permanently,” Sarma said in an interview to The Indian Express.
Sarma also blamed previous Congress governments at the Centre for letting issues fester among the Northeastern states to suit the party’s “political purpose”. Northeastern states, he said, “are still reeling under historical wrongs” committed by the opposition party.
“When they [Congress] formed the states, they did not define the boundaries clearly and they left it to states to fight among themselves. When the Congress government carved out Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya, they should have defined the boundaries also. But they did not do so. It was a time when the Congress had governments in every state. Had they made efforts and made the demarcation clear, the situation would have been different,” said Sarma, who joined the BJP from the Congress in 2015, and took over as Chief Minister after the BJP returned to power in the March-April elections earlier this year.
Since the border clashes between the two states took a violent turn on July 26, when six Assam police personnel were killed, Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga have been at loggerheads, with both states stationing their forces at the border. While Assam summoned six officials of Mizoram’s Kolasib district and sent police after the state’s lone Rajya Sabha MP, Mizoram retaliated by lodging an FIR against Sarma.
On Sunday, however, there appeared to be a thaw with Shah speaking to Sarma and Zoramthanga, and both CMs making statements about resolving the issue through dialogue.
Pointing out that the Union Home Ministry has been making efforts to ease the tension between the two states, Sarma said that a long-term solution to this “very, very complex” issue is also complex. “There are some regional and constitutional issues for which a solution is not happening,” he said, arguing that Assam has never demanded territory and its boundaries were created through various administrative arrangements made by the Government of India.
“People of Assam did not create these boundaries… they were given by the Government of India. But we are being looked at with suspicion. You must understand that unlike other states, Assam is not just about one community and the state was not created based on the demands of one particular community. Assam is a multi-dimensional society and there are small tribal groups. These boundaries were given to us by the Parliament of India,” Sarma said.
The two Chief Ministers had openly sparred on social media, accusing each other’s police of fanning the violence. Sarma had tweeted a purported video of Mizoram Police, criticising their behaviour and accusing them of escalating the situation. Assam had also issued an advisory, warning people against travelling to Mizoram.
Justifying his remarks and tweets that were seen as provocative, the Assam CM said he had to respect “the sentiments” of the people of his state while also “keeping communication channels active and open” with neighbouring Mizoram government.
The travel advisory, he said, were merely “precautionary measures” to avoid any untoward incident that could have worsened the situation. The Chief Minister also pointed out that his government has issued another circular to ensure protection to the lives and properties of people from Mizoram living in Assam.
Sarma, convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a political coalition formed by the BJP, admitted that the situation continues to be “tense” at the borders, but expressed confidence that the states would work together to emerge as a strong region.
On Monday, Mizoram Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Parliament House to discuss the standoff between the two states. The Governor said the Centre and state governments were working closely and efforts are underway to resolve the issue. Members of Parliament from Assam also held a meeting with the Prime Minister.
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