GUWAHATI: At least five Assam Police personnel were killed and over 50 others, including civilians, injured when the Assam-Mizoram border row flared up on Monday that saw the police of the two states firing at each other. Automatic weapons, including light machine guns, were used by the Mizoram Police in the attack, the Assam government alleged.
The injured included Assam’s Cachar Superintendent of Police Nimbalkar Vaibhav Chandrakant and the officer-in-charge of a police station in the district. Ironically, while Assam has a BJP government, the ruling party in Mizoram is an NDA ally.
“Clear evidences are now beginning to emerge that unfortunately show that Mizoram Police has used Light Machine Guns (LMG) against personnel of @assampolice,” tweeted a horrified Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma later in the day.
The incident came amidst a fortnight-long eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the two police forces and two days after the CMs of the two states discussed the issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Meghalaya capital Shillong.
Shah spoke to the two CMs on Monday and asked them to peacefully resolve the issue. Following his intervention, the Assam Police withdrew from the site. The CRPF is now manning the area.Blaming Mizoram for the flare-up and breaching status quo, an Assam government statement said, “Mizoram began constructing a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam, destroying the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Lailapur area. Simultaneously, the Mizoram side also set up a new armed camp on a hillock next to the camp of the neutral force, CRPF, in the same vicinity.”
When Assam officials went to the area to request the Mizoram side not to disturb status quo, “they were surrounded and attacked by a mob of miscreants from the Mizoram side, which was visibly supported by the Mizoram Police.”
Mizoram blames Assam for flare up
In the afternoon, Manipur’s Kolasib district SP held talks with the Assam delegation. The SP returned again around 4.30 pm and claimed he had no control over the mob, the statement added. E ven while the talks were on, the Mizoram Police opened fire on the Assam officials and civilians from two dominating high features with automatic weapons, including light machine guns, the statement said.
For his part, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga condemned the Assam government’s “unjustified act” of intrusion and aggression into Mizoram’s territory. He said the injuries on both sides could have been avoided. Giving his take of the incident, Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana said around 200 Assam Police personnel came to Mizoram’s Vairengte auto-rickshaw stand at around 11.30 am by forcibly crossing a post manned by the CRPF and overran a Mizoram Police post.
He said the Assam Police damaged several vehicles that were travelling along the national highway between Vairengte and Lailapur. “Upon learning of the arson committed by Assam Police, residents of Vairengte town, Kolasib district proceeded to the site to inquire. These unarmed civilians were assaulted by Assam Police by lathi-charging and firing of tear gas, thereby causing injuries to several civilians,” Lalchamliana said. E ight unoccupied farm huts near the trouble-torn area were torched. Lalchamliana said the SP of Kolasib had gone to the site to try and resolve the issue.
However, the Assam side was adamant and unwilling to discuss, he claimed. The confrontation continued and a volley of tear gas canisters and grenades were launched at Mizoram Police followed by firing from Assam side around 4:50 pm. The Mizoram Police responded by firing back at Assam Police.
Who’s the squatter?
Border conflicts have occurred since Mizoram was carved out of Assam as a Union Territory in 1972 to eventually become a state in 1987
There have been several rounds of talks between the two states since 1995 to resolve the issue
Officials and locals in Assam claim Mizos have been squatting on 1-3 km land from the interstate border
But Mizoram groups claim the authorities in Assam have been using ‘illegal Bangladeshis’ to move 10-12 km inside their territory
The official stand of Mizoram is that the boundary should be demarcated based on a notification of 1875 that distinguished the Lushai Hills (present day Mizoram and erstwhile district of Assam) from the plains of Cachar
1933 The point of conflict is another British-era notification of 1933 that Assam follows but is not acceptable to Mizoram, which says their ancestors were not consulted on this
In 1971, the interstate boundary was redefined and Mizos say it was done without their knowledge or consent. Much of Mizo land under British rule was included into Assam territory