Building of bridge sparks new Assam-Mizoram row

  • The two states held a peace summit and agreed to withdraw state forces from the border, allow central inspection and initiate talks.
Mizoram officials, however, said that the bridge was being constructed on its side at Zophai near Bairabi town and accused the Assam police of stealing the construction material.
Mizoram officials, however, said that the bridge was being constructed on its side at Zophai near Bairabi town and accused the Assam police of stealing the construction material.
Updated on Aug 23, 2021 05:17 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, Guwahati

Tensions along the 164.6-km disputed border between Assam and Mizoram ratcheted up again on Sunday, with Assam accusing its neighbouring state of constructing a bridge in its territory and Mizoram police filing a case against Assam police on Saturday for allegedly stealing construction material from the site. The police case was withdrawn on Sunday.

Assam officials alleged that Mizoram officials entered the state’s Hailakandi district and started constructing the bridge ar Kachurthal in Ramnathpur police station area on Friday, mere weeks after the two governments announced a road map for peaceful negotiations following a violent showdown last month.

Mizoram officials, however, said that the bridge was being constructed on its side at Zophai near Bairabi town and accused the Assam police of stealing the construction material.

The theft case filed by the Mizoram police against Assam officials was withdrawn on Sunday evening, after Assam police returned the construction material, officials in Mizoram said. The Assam police, however, denied taking the material.

On July 26, police forces of the two states came eyeball-to-eyeball, with six Assam policemen being killed in firing and about 40 others being injured.

The latest flashpoint emerged on Saturday, when Kolasib deputy commissioner H Lalthlangliana, in a letter to his counterpart in Hailakandi — the district is in Assam’s Barak Valley region and borders Kolasib district in Mizoram — Rohan Kumar Jha, alleged that a team of officials from Assam entered Mizoram’s territory in Zophai on Friday where a bridge was being constructed to connect the main road to a paddy field owned by the state’s former chief minister C Chhunga.

“Assam Police created problems for workers on the site and even stole some construction material, including pieces of iron rods, etc. A police case against theft of construction materials has been filed against them at Bairabi police station,” the letter, seen by HT, said. The deputy commissioner wrote that government servants “committing an act that can be interpreted as theft towards government property is very disappointing and considered very serious”.

Assam police, however, refuted the allegations and said that the construction was being undertaken in Assam’s territory without “necessary authorisation”.

“The Mizoram authorities were constructing a bridge over a ‘nullah’ at Kachurthal, which borders Mizoram on one side and Assam on the other. Since the construction was being done on Assam’s territory, necessary authorisation from our side should have been taken. But the Mizoram side didn’t do that,” Hailakandi SP Gaurav Upadhyay said.

Upadhyay alleged that around 40-50 security personnel from Mizoram reached the bridge site on Saturday and a few of them crossed over to the Assam side “in complete violation of the joint statement issued by both states on August 5 to maintain peace in the border area”. “The allegation of any theft by a disciplined force like Assam Police is absolutely concocted, baseless, malafide and devoid of any facts and is an attempt by Mizoram administration to divert the attention from the illegal construction by Mizoram in Assam soil,” he said.

Following the incident, both states increased police deployment along the border to prevent any untoward incidents.

The additional forces were reduced on Sunday evening after the theft case against Assam officials was withdrawn. “Since we have got all our materials, the police case registered on Saturday has been withdrawn. Forces deployed by both states have also been pulled back,” Lalthlangliana said. He, however, added that Assam official made another bid to enter the construction site in the state’s territory on Sunday.

“On Sunday morning, nearly 100 Assam policemen reached the site. Our policemen were also ready and waiting. When the Assam policemen tried to enter Mizoram, I called up the Hailakandi deputy commissioner and informed him about the situation,” Lalthlangliana said.

Assam districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi share a 164.6km-long border with Mizoram’s Aizawl, Kolasib and Mamit districts. The decades-old border dispute stems primarily from a difference in perception. Mizoram goes by an 1875 border agreement but Assam follows a 1933 demarcation.

Tensions abated in the first week of August after central intervention. The two states held a peace summit and agreed to withdraw state forces from the border, allow central inspection and initiate talks.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is an assistant editor based in Guwahati. He covers all eight states of North-East and was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times .

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