Guwahati: Just two days after Union home minister Amit Shah had a closed-door meeting with the chief ministers of all northeastern states, the ongoing Assam-Mizoram border row took an ugly turn on Monday with at least six police personnel killed and 67 others, including the Cachar SP and his PSOs, injured in the incident of cross-firing between the police forces of the two neighbouring states.
Saying that Cachar SP Nimbalkar Vaibhav Chandrakant, IPS, and the officer-in-charge of the Dholai police station with 65 police personnel and a few civilians were injured and shifted to Assam Medical College and Hospital, Silchar, security sources told this newspaper that six police personnel, including two from the 21 India Reserve Battalion, were killed in the cross-firing between the Assam and Mizoram police that was going on till late in the evening. Among those killed, two police personnel were identified as Samsul Zaman Borbhuyan and Sapan Kumar Roy of 21 IR battalion.
The security sources said Union home minister Amit Shah called up the chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram and directed them to defuse the situation. Pointing out that the home ministry had taken a tough stand on the escalating tension between the two states, the sources said fresh tension erupted along the inter-state border at Lailapur area in Cachar district after over 10 persons, including an IGP and some policemen and civilians, were left with injuries in a scuffle on Monday morning.
The security sources said that it started with stone pelting but mounting tension escalated it into fierce cross-firing between the police personnel of the two states.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma rushed Cabinet minister Pijush Hazarika to visit the trouble-torn areas where the situation was tense after the Assam police allegedly took control of a police outpost of the Mizoram police in the disputed border areas.
Saying that at a place between Vairengte in Mizoram and Lailapur in Assam, the convoy of Cachar deputy commissioner Keerthi Jalli was also targeted by miscreants along the border, the security sources said she faced stiff resistance during her visit at the inter-state border.
Officials of the Assam government had gone to evict the encroachment allegedly by some Mizo miscreants inside Assam, but a large crowd of civilians and Mizoram police personnel challenged the eviction drive and resorted to stone-pelting, forcing the Assam police to fire teargas shells to disperse the crowd. The situation continued to escalate and SP Cachar Nimbalkar Vaibhav Chandrakant also rushed to the trouble-torn areas, the security sources said, adding that the crowd mixed with armed Mizoram police personnel refused to vacate the area. Pointing out that in the evening, a crowd resorted to indiscriminate firing on an Assam police team, the sources said they are yet to ascertain who had resorted to firing on the police team.
The security sources said Mr Nimbalkar and his PSOs had bullet injuries and shifted to the Medical College Hospital, Silchar, where his condition was stable. Most of those critically wounded have been shifted to Silchar Medical College Hospital, where the condition of at least five was stated to be very critical.
Earlier during the day, the incident had triggered a diatribe between the chief ministers of the two states on Twitter as Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma wrote: “Hon’ble Zoramthangaji, Kolasib (Mizoram) SP is asking us to withdraw from our post until then their civilians won’t listen nor stop violence. How can we run the government in such circumstances? Hope you will intervene at the earliest.”
Shortly after that, the Mizoram CM responded to the Assam CM, saying: “Dear Himantaji, after cordial meeting of CMs with Amit Shahji, surprisingly two companies of Assam Police with civilians lathicharged and teargassed civilians at Vairengte Auto Rickshaw stand inside Mizoram today. They even overran CRPF personnel and the Mizoram Police.” Both the chief ministers in their tweets tagged the Union home minister and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Meanwhile, senior police officers have rushed to the border areas and both sides have refused to go back from their positions. The security sources said senior officials of the Union home ministry were in touch with the top authorities of the two states and trying to defuse the tension.
Mr Sarma recently said a resolution of border dispute with Mizoram may take some time as the people of Mizoram have encroached on almost 1,800 hectares of Assamese land in three districts. Mr Sarma claimed a total of 1,777.58 hectares of land in the Barak Valley region have been taken over by encroachers from Mizoram. Out of it, the largest area of 1,000 hectares has been encroached in Hailakandi district, followed by 400 hectares in Cachar and 377.58 hectares in Karimganj, he added.
Mizoram shares a 164.6 km-long border with Assam. The hill state was part of Assam until 1972 when it was carved out as a Union territory.
In order to resolve the border dispute between the neighbouring states of the Northeast, Mr Amit Shah had a closed-door meeting with all the CMs of the region in Shillong on Saturday, which had ended on a cordial note and with a resolution of resolving the issue mutually.
In fact, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga in his speech at the meeting said: “The border disputes between the states of the region are a legacy of the colonial era that the present government inherited from its predecessor, which had been left unresolved at the time of the formation of states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.”