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Mizo forces still inside Assam territory
Rituraj Borthakur
 GUWAHATI, Nov 21 - Two weeks after assuring to withdraw, Mizoram forces continue to occupy Assam’s territory and it is feared that the Cachar Division stands to lose control over nearly 700 hectares of forest land unless the boundary dispute is conclusively settled.

 DIG (Southern Range) Dilip Kumar Dey said the Mizoram personnel continue to station inside Assam’s territory at five locations in the two districts of Cachar and Karimganj. “Sometimes they thin out, but later they again build up,” he said.

According to a forest department report, “Unlike the usual incidents of encroachment of forest lands by general public, the recent encroachment and land grabbing by Mizo forces appears to be prompted by the Mizoram government. However, this is not the first instance of incursion by Mizoram forces inside the territory of Assam.”

The report notes: “The personnel who are illegally occupying forest lands inside the territory of Assam have taken a very aggressive position regarding their claim that the recently occupied lands belongs to the territory of Mizoram... these personnel are in no mood to accept the constitutional boundary of Assam & Mizoram or to respect the notification of March 9, 1933 that defines the boundary of the States of Assam and Mizoram.”

The inter-State boundary between Chutobhubirbond and Medleycherra in Karimganj Division and that near Dholai in Cachar Division are straight lines without any natural features such as rivers or streams and absence of boundary pillars have made these areas vulnerable for claim by Mizoram.

The recent incidents of land encroachment amounts to an act of aggression by the State of Mizoram and such encroachments cannot be tackled in the usual manner by the forest department, the report said, adding that it will require an intensive involvement of both police and military forces to prevent any further incidents of damage to life and property, and incursion into the territory of Assam.

“Due to establishment of IR Battalion camps inside the territory of Assam, Cachar Division stands to lose control over nearly 700 hectares of forest land in the Innerline Reserved Forest area.

“Until and unless the boundary dispute is conclusively settled, the possibility of future attempts of incursion into Assam by Mizo elements cannot be ruled out... only an intervention by the Government of India can possibly defuse the border tension,” the report added.

Additional Assam Forest Protection Force personnel have been sent to Cachar Division, but the division is seriously handicapped with regard to infrastructural and logistical requirements. A senior forest official said a holistic plan is being prepared for infrastructure upgrade of the border area to protect the forests from encroachment.

“We are also trying to have a high-level meeting with forest officials of Mizoram to discuss various inter-State issues. We have sent a communication, but we are yet to receive any response,” the official said.

Mizoram forces have been occupying Assam’s territory since more than a month now and have not budged despite the neighbouring State’s assurance to do so in two tripartite meetings attended by senior Home Ministry officials.

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