Not a ‘political’ issue: Himanta Biswa Sarma on Assam-Mizoram border clashes
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday that clashes at its border with Mizoram was “not a political issue” but a long-standing dispute between the two states. “This is a boundary dispute between two states. This is a long-standing border dispute. There was a dispute even at the time when the Congress government was there on both sides. This is a dispute between two states,” he said.
Sarma added that three battalions of commandos would be deployed in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts bordering Mizoram to quell violence.
The move followed after six Assam police personnel were killed and 50 others injured during clashes at the border between Assam’s Cachar and Mizoram’s Vairengte on Monday. Visuals that surfaced on social media showed civilians on both sides of the border pelting stones at each other and attacking security personnel with sticks and rods.
Sarma further stated that he ordered a probe into the incident and find where civilians procured arms and ammunition from. The chief minister also visited Silchar Medical College and Hospital to meet the injured state police personnel.
Monday’s violence broke out over allegations of encroachment. Mizoram home minister Lalchamliana claimed that Assam police entered Mizoram’s territory and committed arson. In a statement, he added that “upon learning of the arson, residents of Vairengte…proceeded to the site to inquire” when Assam police assaulted these “unarmed civilians” by lathi charging them and firing tear gas canisters. The state’s deputy inspector general of police (northern range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte said that eight unoccupied farm huts were set ablaze by unidentified persons on Sunday around 11.30pm.
The incident even saw the chief ministers of both states engage in a war of words on Twitter. While Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga accused the Assam government of “intrusion and aggression” into the state, Sarma said civilians of Mizoram attacked security personnel stationed in Lailapur to encroach into Assam’s territory. Later, both the chief ministers held a meeting after which Sarma tweeted that Assam will maintain “status quo and peace between the borders.”
A battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was deployed in both the states between 4pm and 4.30pm as per the orders of home secretary under the direct supervision of Union home minister Amit Shah – whose intervention was sought by both the chief ministers.
The clashes broke out after Shah’s recent visit to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong during which he chaired a meeting with the chief ministers of all eight northeastern states and reportedly discussed inter-border disputes. In the meeting, Zoramthanga said that “large tracts of areas claimed by Assam to be within its constitutional boundary” have been used by the people of Mizoram for the past 100 plus years.
“Assam started claiming these areas only fairly recently due to population pressure apparently caused by the large-scale influx of migrants from outside Barak valley,” Zoramthanga added.
Addressing this issue, Sarma on Tuesday said that the dispute is “not regarding land [but]…forest.” “Assam wants to protect the forest. It’s not organising any settlement in the forest area, we don’t want any settlement there,” he further said.
(With inputs from agencies)