Highway blockades

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/31/2020 1:03:15 PM IST

 Despite efforts by the union home ministry to mediate over the boundary issue, tension continues along Assam-Mizoram border which had been simmering since October 9. Incidents along the border has resulted in the National Highway 306 being blockaded by locals on Assam’s side of the border for the fourth consecutive day on October 31. The deadlock at the Assam-Mizoram border has been on since October 9 when some volunteers erected a COVID-19 check gate. Festering since October 9, the situation along the 164.6-km Assam-Mizoram border took an ugly turn on October 17 when residents of Lailapur village in Cachar district of Assam collided with the locals of Kolasib district of Mizoram. Around 20 shops and houses were burnt and over 50 people injured in clashes. The Union Home Ministry has been trying to solve the dispute, but with little success. Locals on the Assam side are not allowing trucks carrying goods to enter Mizoram. They demand that Mizoram withdraw its armed police forces posted at the border which the latter has simply refused to oblige. Mizoram claims it is protecting its historical boundary and its officials accused Assam government officials of instigating the fresh blockade. The boundary row among north eastern states has been simmering since Assam was bifurcated to create new states. Assam has boundary disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. The disputes did not arise out of thin air because some states wanted to poach land. The claims of several states over disputed areas along the border involve traditional boundaries. However, what worsened the situation has been Assam’s practise of encouraging settlement of both legal and illegal immigrant communities along its borders with other north eastern states. The Mizos have been demanding that illegal immigrants such as Brus from Bangladesh and Rohingiyas etc be removed from disputed territories. The illegal immigrants have been given land and opportunity in disputed areas so as to act as buffer against other states. In most occasions immigrants are allegedly involved in border incidents. However, aside from the incidents, what has attracted focus is the compulsive habit of adopting road blockades as a weapon. The ongoing blockade on Mizoram by agitators in Assam is not the first but among so many in the past. The national highway 306 is a national property constructed for the interests of the county and its citizens. Blockading national highways, by those involved is a clear act of declaring war on the affected state. No matter what the issue may be, no state can usurp the rights of the government of India’s authority over national highways by imposing blockades against any state to cause suffering and even starvation. New Delhi needs to relook this matter and ensure that states where agitators impose blockades should be made legally accountable. There is a clause in the National Highway Act 1956, sub-section 8 (1) which states: “whoever commit mischief by doing any act which renders or which he knows to be likely to render any National Highways refer to subsection (1) of section 8 (A) “impassable or less safe” for travelling or conveying property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 5 years, or fine with both”. The matter is clear so is the law and it is now up to the centre to put down such blockades once and for all.

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