Mizoram bar association files PIL seeking end to ‘blockade’

Aizawl, Aug 3: The Mizoram Bar Association (MBA) on Tuesday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Gauhati High Court against alleged economic blockade clamped on National Highway-306, which connects the landlocked state with the rest of the country, by organisations in Assam’s Barak Valley. Ever since a violent clash between the police forces of Assam and Mizoram on a disputed stretch of their border on July 26, trucks from Assam’s Barak valley have stopped coming to Mizoram, disrupting normal supplies which have had to be routed through Tripura or by air

. The MBA president Anil Rinliana Malhotra said his association has filed a PIL before the Aizawl bench of the Gauhati High Court to legally challenge the blockade as “it is outright violation of basic fundamental right to life as guaranteed by the constitution of the country.” He said the association had earlier submitted representations to the Centre and governments of Mizoram and Assam to take immediate measures for lifting the blockade but these have not succeeded. “As the representations have had no positive results, the association felt it necessary to file the PIL keeping in view the hardship faced by people,” he said.

However, ground reports indicate that Assamese local organisations which soon after the clash announced an economic blockade of Mizoram and stopped vehicles bound for the neighbouring state have since dispersed.

Truckers afraid of possible violence have opted to either park their vehicles near the border in Cachar district’s Dholai or to circumvent the troubled boundary by taking a longer route through Tripura. Though the PIL was filed before the Aizawl bench, authorities of the Gauhati High Court will decide on whether it will be taken up by the principal bench or the Aizawl bench, Malhotra said.

The association had also filed a PIL when locals of Lailapur in Assam blocked the National Highway between 17 October and 11 November in 2020 after a clash between residents on both sides of the disputed border between Vairengte in Mizoram and Lailapur in Assam. That PIL, however, ended when locals of Lailapur lifted the economic blockade. Malhotra said the high court had then given them the liberty to file a fresh PIL in case of another economic blockade in future. Mizoram home secretary Vanlalngaihsaka had on Monday written to his Assam counterpart, asking the neighbouring state to make all necessary arrangements for immediate resumption of traffic movement claiming that Mizoram bound vehicles, which have been stranded on the NH-306 since July 26 are willing to enter the state without delay.

The letter also said that the Mizoram government has given assurance for the safety and security of all drivers and passengers coming to the state. Earlier, the Mizoram home department had written to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) at least three times between July 28 and August 1, seeking the Centre’s intervention to lift the alleged economic blockade and restore the railway tracks damaged at three locations in Assam, that links Mizoram’s Bairabi town in Kolasib district.

Kolasib Superintendent of Police (SP) Vanlalfaka Ralte told PTI that no vehicles from Assam had entered Mizoram till Tuesday evening despite security assurance given to drivers. As a consequence, prices of vegetables in the landlocked state of Mizoram have begun to rise. One kilogram of tomato sold for Rs 120 in the state capital Aizawl on Tuesday. At least six Assam Police personnel and one civilian were killed and more than 50 people injured in a fire-fight between the police of the two states, which broke out at a forested patch of the contentious border on July 26.

The two states share a 164.6-km border between Assam”s Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, and Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts. Both states have differing interpretations of their territorial border. While Mizoram believes that its border lies along an ‘inner line’ drawn up in 1875 to protect tribals from outside influence, Assam goes by a district demarcation done in the 1930s.

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