Aizawl, July 18: Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Mizoran, India's second least populous state after Sikkim, has been confronted with a host of issues -- refugees from Myanmar, border disputes with Assam and an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) which has killed over 11,000 pigs.
Since the military seized power in Myanmar on February 1, around 10,000 Myanmarese, including women, children, lawmakers and prominent leaders, have already taken refuge in Mizoram which shares an unfenced border with the country (510 km) and Bangladesh (318 km).
The contagious ASF since March continues to wreak havoc among the livestock in Mizoram affecting all 11 districts and killing around 11,000 pigs badly affecting the business, taking the financial loss to the tune of Rs 120 crore so far.
Since October last year, several inter-state border skirmishes have taken place along the 164.6 km Mizoram-Assam border forcing the Central government to deploy central forces along the frontiers of the two neighbouring states.
Mizoram, where the first Covid-19 death was reported on October 28, 2020, six months after the northeast region's first coronavirus fatality in Assam and seven months after India's first in Karnataka, has so far registered 26,690 Covid positive cases with 21,033 people recovered from the dreaded disease.
Till late Saturday evening, 120 persons had died due to Covid-19 Mizoram, with a fatality rate of 0.45 per cent against the national average of 1.33 per cent.
Of the 11 districts of the mountainous state, Aizawl district alone has reported 97 Covid deaths and no death reported so far from the three districts -- Saiha, Khawzawl and Hnahthial.
A senior official of Mizoram Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said that during a recent virtual meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of eight northeastern states, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga told Modi that with the military junta overthrowing the democratically elected government of Myanmar in February, thousands of Mizos who lived in Myanmar crossed over and sought refuge and shelter in Mizoram.
"Mizos across the border in Myanmar are our brethren with whom we share close cultural and family ties, with many having close family connections, hence it was not possible for Mizoram to refuse shelter to our own brethren who fled Myanmar fearing for their lives," Zoramthanga told Modi.
"Soon after this, the second wave of the pandemic manifested and Mizoram not only had to fight the pandemic with its limited resources but also had to look after the refugees from Myanmar and provide them food, shelter and medicines. This has strained the financial resources of the state."
The CMO official told IANS that the Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister's intervention to aid the humanitarian crisis of the refugees from Myanmar who had sought refuge in Mizoram.
"The Chief Minister also mentioned that for the past few months Mizoram also had to bear the brunt of the African swine Fever, which has killed thousands of pigs and caused huge losses to livestock farmers of the state," the official said.
The Mizoram-Assam border disputes also took a new turn after the two northeastern states accused each other over the encroachment of each others territories.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma during the ongoing session of the state Assembly said that 1,777 hectares of land in three districts of southern Assam -- Cahcar, Karimganj and Hailakandi -- have been encroached by Mizos.
Rejecting Sarma's accusation, Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo said in Aizawl that the lands referring by the Assam Chief Minister and his government are being occupied by the residents of Mizoram's border villages for over 100 years, hence, there is no question of encroachment.
"Residents of Mizoram did not encroach even an inch of Assam's territory as alleged by Chief Minister," said Chuaungo, who held an inconclusive meeting on the inter-state border disputes with his Assam counterpart Jishnu Baruah in New Delhi on July 9.
With a population of 1.1 million (2011 census), India's second least populous state Mizoram like few other northeastern states of India, was previously part of Assam until 1972, when it was carved out as a Union Territory.
According to Assam police, since October last year, several inter-state border skirmishes have taken place along the 164.6 km Assam-Mizoram border in which over 50 people were injured, one man was killed, besides causing large scale damage to properties including a government run schools and a large number of shops and houses along the borders.
Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana had said earlier that the crops of Mizo farmers had been destroyed at Buarchep (in Kolasib district) by the Assam police earlier this month and demanded adequate compensation by the Assam government.
The Assam-Mizoram border troubles were tamed last year following the intervention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, top Home Ministry officials and Chief Ministers of both states and then the central paramilitary troops were deployed along the border to prevent fresh troubles after a series of clashes and blockades on National Highway 306.
But since June 29, the troubles along the borders of the two northeastern states have resumed after the two states accused each other of encroachment at Aitlang hnar near Vairengte, which borders southern Assam's Hailakandi district.
Tension further shot up when Assam officials reportedly destroyed some plantations at Buarchep in the Phainuam area bordering Cachar district on July 10 during eviction, even as Assam officials claimed that the people of Mizoram encroached more than six km into its territory.
The Assam government had also filed a suit before a court in southern Assam's Cachar district last week.
Cachar's Divisional Forest Officer Sunnydeo Choudhury submitted a petition before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Silchar, claiming that some officials of Mizoram government are being trespassing, destroying forest cover and doing illegal construction of road inside the Inner Line Reserve Forest causing damage to forest land under various sections of the Assam Forest Regulation, 1891.
Assam, which shares borders with six other northeastern states -- Nagaland (512.1 km), Arunachal Pradesh (804.1 km), Manipur (204.1 km), Mizoram (164.6 km), Tripura (46.3 km) and Meghalaya (884.9 km), has boundary disputes at least with four northeastern states - Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya besides Mizoram.
Inter-state boundary disputes between Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh during the past several years have witnessed many violent activities and skirmishes among the security forces and the people living along the boundaries of these states.
Encroachment in the border areas, and various unlawful activities, including attacks and abductions, infrequently took place along the inter-state borders of the northeastern states, occasionally leading to major incidents.
The Central para-military forces have been deployed in some of the inter-state borders to prevent further escalation of violence.