Six Assam police personnel were killed in an exchange of fire with their Mizoram counterparts after the protracted border row between the two northeastern States took a violent turn on Monday. The clashes at the border town of Vairengte also left at least 60 persons from Assam injured.
The incident comes less than two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with the Chief Ministers of the northeast in Meghalaya capital Shillong for resolving the inter-State boundary disputes.
The injured included Assam’s Cachar district Superintendent of Police Nimbalkar Vaibhav Chandrakant and the officer-in-charge of Dholai police station in the district.
“I am deeply pained to inform that six brave jawans of @assampolice have sacrificed their lives while defending constitutional boundary of our state at the Assam-Mizoram border. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio, tweeted.
‘CRPF post attacked’
Mizoram’s Home Minister Lalchamliana said the chain of events began at 11:30 a.m. when some 200 Assam police personnel came to the Vairengte auto-rickshaw stand and “forcibly” closed the duty post of the Central Reserve Police Force and a section of Mizoram police personnel.
The CRPF has been deployed as a neutral force at disputed stretches along the 164.6 km Assam-Mizoram border.
“The Assam police damaged some Mizoram-bound vehicles on the national highway and committed arson. They did not listen to our officials who tried to resolve the issue and lobbed tear gas shells and grenades and started firing at around 4:30 p.m.,” Mr. Lalchamliana said.
“Mizoram police responded spontaneously by firing back at the Assam police. The aggression of the Assam police started the unfortunate development. The Assam police withdrew and the duty post was handed back to the CRPF after the Union Home Minister spoke to the Chief Ministers of both the States,” he added.
Officials in Assam, however, blamed the Mizoram police and people in civilian clothes armed with telescopic rifles for the flare-up. “They opened fire,” Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli said when asked what triggered the trouble.
Assam officials also said their team had gone to evict encroachers from Mizoram. Assam claims Mizos have been squatting in areas some one to three kilometres from the inter-State border while Mizoram groups claim Assam has pushed its people 10-12 km inside its territory.
As the border clash intensified on Monday, Dr. Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga traded charges on Twitter while tagging the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Shah.
Pointing out that the vehicle of a Mizoram-bound couple was attacked, Mr. Zoramthanga sought Mr. Shah’s intervention. “How are you going to justify such violent acts?” he asked.
However, Dr. Sarma told his Mizoram counterpart that his officials were being threatened with violence until they “withdraw from our post”.
In another tweet, he said he spoke to Mr Zoramthanga. “I have reiterated that Assam will maintain status quo and peace between the borders of our State. I have expressed my willingness to visit Aizawl and discuss these issues if need be.”
Minor clashes were also reported in the Killing-Iongkhuli area of Assam-Meghalaya border on Monday when Assam police personnel allegedly tried to uproot electric poles erected by workers engaged by the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited.