Six personnel of the Assam Police died "defending the constitutional boundary" of the state at the Mizoram border, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Monday, in an ugly turn to a festering border dispute between the two northeastern states.
Local media reports said about 50 Assam police personnel were admitted to a hospital in Silchar with some of them suffering serious injuries.
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.
" Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) July 26, 2021
It was not immediately known what caused the fatal injuries but videos that surfaced on social media showed mobs gathering at the controversial border point. There were reports of lathicharge and firing from the border area, which lies over Assam's Cachar district and Mizoram's Kolasib district.
The incident took place close on the heels of home minister Amit Shah's visit to the region, where he held a meeting with CMs of the northeastern states. The border dispute between Assam and Mizoram was raised during the talks.
Earlier on Monday, Shah had asked the chief ministers of both the states to find a solution to the border dispute. Both Assam and Mizoram had agreed to resolve the issue and maintain peace, according to sources.
Eight Mizo farm huts set on fire
Tension flared along the border after eight farmers' huts were set ablaze by unidentified miscreants, a senior police officer said on Monday.
Mizoram Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Northern Range), Lalbiakthanga Khiangte, told PTI that at least eight unoccupied farm huts near Aitlang stream in the trouble-torn area were torched around 11.30 pm on Sunday.
He said these belonged to farmers from Vairengte, the nearest border village from Assam.
Complaints have been lodged by owners of the huts at Vairengte police station and investigation is underway, Khiangte said.
Assam-Mizoram border dispute
The situation along the Mizoram-Assam border has been on the boil since June-end when Assam Police allegedly took control over an area known as 'Aitlang hnar' about 5 km from Vairengte, accusing the neighbouring state of encroaching on its territory.
Several crops and betel nut trees belonging to a Mizoram farmer were also reportedly damaged during the "eviction drive", as claimed by Assam Police and officials at Buarchep near Phainuam village, on 10 July.
On the same day, a grenade was allegedly hurled on an Assam government team visiting the border by unknown people.
Both the states have been blaming each other for two back-to-back explosions across the border in the early hours of 11 July.
Miscreants from Mizoram indulging in stone pelting: Assam Police
The Assam Police said that over 50 of its personnel were injured in Cachar district in firing and stone pelting by miscreants from Mizoram during the day.
Locals on the Assam side alleged that miscreants, armed with sticks, rods and even rifles, attacked personnel of the Assam Police at Lailapur and damaged several vehicles, including those belonging to the office of the deputy commissioner.
Ready to visit Aizwal: Himanta Sarma
Assam chief minister was expected to visit the area on Tuesday as tension hung in the air. Earlier, he had tweeted that he spoke to his Mizoram counterpart and expressed willingness to resolve the tensions.
According to officials, the Assam Police has withdrawn from the area, while efforts were on to convince the Mizoram side to go back.
I have just spoken to Hon'ble Chief Minister @ZoramthangaCM ji.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 disscuss these issues if need be @AmitShah @PMOIndia
" Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) July 26, 2021
Residents of Vairengte faced lathicharge: Mizoram Police
The Mizoram government blamed the Assam Police for the situation. Around 200 armed policemen from Assam, accompanied by Chachar district's top officials, arrived at Mizoram's Vairengte on Monday, a statement by Mizoram said. It said the team crossed a duty post manned by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and overran another duty post manned by Mizoram police personnel.
"The Assam Police also damaged several vehicles that were travelling along the National Highway between Vairengte and Lailapur (Assam)," it said.
Residents of Vairengte reached the site but faced lathicharge, the statement said. It added "a volley of tear gas canisters and grenades were launched at Mizoram Police followed by firing from the Assam side at around 4:50 pm", prompting Mizoram Police to fire back.
The statement termed the incident "unfortunate" and strongly condemned the "intrusion" by Assam, calling for a peaceful resolution to the border dispute.
Assam Police be instructed to withdraw from Vairengte, says Zoramthanga
Chief Minister Zoramthanga had raised the border issue during the meeting with his counterparts from other northeastern states on Sunday, officials said.
He informed the home minister that border disputes among states of the region is a legacy issue of the colonial era, they said.
Zoramthanga had also said that large tracts of land claimed by Assam to be within its constitutional boundary have been used for collection of forest produce and cultivation for more than 100 years by the people of Mizoram.
The chief minister took to Twitter and posted a video of a mob clashing with the police at the Assam-Mizoram border.
Both the chief ministers have had heated arguments on Twitter over the issue, at times sharing videos to prove their points.
Hon'ble @himantabiswa ji, as discussed I kindly urge that Assam Police @assampolice be instructed to withdraw from Vairengte for the safety of civilians. @narendramodi@AmitShah@PMOIndia@HMOIndiahttps://t.co/wHtMPhFRpP
" Zoramthanga (@ZoramthangaCM) July 26, 2021
With inputs from PTI