The 2009-batch IPS officer Vaibhav Nimbalkar who was serving as the police superintendent of Cachar in Assam, received injuries during an exchange of fire between the police forces of Assam and Mizoram on interstate border dispute on Monday. He was airlifted and admitted to a private hospital in Mumbai where he underwent a three-hour-long surgery to remove (bullet) shell pieces from the body on Tuesday evening, a police official said. 5 Assam Police personnel were killed in violent clashes by unidentified miscreants from Mizoram and 50 others injured.

This has once again unveiled the 150 years old ‘fragile’ issue of interstate border disputes between the two states. While Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that miscreants and police from Mizoram fired indiscriminately upon Assam police who were there to protect Assam’s forest from encroachment, Mizoram claimed that it was Assam police who provoked them.

The Assam-Mizo boundary dispute is not new and dates back to British Raj. In 1875, the British determined the boundary between Cachar in Assam and Mizoram which was known as Lushai Hills then, a part of Greater Assam. After independence, Mizoram was carved out of Assam in 1972 as a Union Territory (UT) and later conferred statehood on February 20, 1987. But the determination of the state boundary remained contentious. Mizoram pushed 1875 agreement for border determination. Supreme Court in 2005 directed the central government to form a Boundary Commission to settle the dispute, but nothing much had happened since.

The Aizwal based group of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) on Inner Line Reserve Forest Demand of Mizoram demands that the Assam government should hand over the administration of 509 Sq Miles of Inner Line Reserved Forest to the forest department of the Mizoram. In 2018, the JAC along with various political parties, NGOs in a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the current boundary was arbitrarily made without the consent and approval of the competent authorities of Mizoram.

The Mizoram government had constituted a boundary commission to deal with the demarcation of the state’s border with Assam only on July 24, two days ahead of the violent clash. It may be mentioned that union home minister Amit Shad met all the chief ministers of northeastern states on Sunday evening in Shillong in Meghalaya where the issue of border dispute was also discussed.

It’s not the first time that violence has been reported from the Assam-Mizoram border. Last year too, tension flared up on both sides. The Monday clash was triggered when a team of around 200 Assam Police led by the IGP, Assam Police, and the DC, SP and DFO of Cachar travelled to the Vairengte autorickshaw stand claiming to “resolve matters”.  Mizoram has alleged that they “forced their way in”, overrunning security posts and leading to violence.