Guwahati: Amid the ongoing attempts by the Central government to resolve the border dispute between Assam and Mizoram, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday accused the Mizoram government of arming its civilians with weapons and ammunitions for two months.
Asserting it was for the first time that the Assam police has succeeded in retrieving its land encroached by Mizoram since November 2020, the chief minister told reporters a contingent of 300 security personnel led by IGP Anurag Agarwal had been deployed in all five disputed sectors of the Assam-Mizoram border.
Assam also has ongoing border disputes with several of its neighbouring states -- including Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Meghalaya -- and government sources expressed fears that these could lead to flareups unless they were defused in time.
Top government sources said, meanwhile, that Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga have been summoned by Union home minister Amit Shah for a meeting on the border conflict in New Delhi on Thursday. The chief secretaries and DGPs of both states were in New Delhi on Wednesday for a meeting with the Union home secretary to find an amicable solution to the problem.
Earlier, Mr Sarma also claimed his government’s crackdown on narcotics smuggling and the new law restricting cattle transportation through its territory might have been the trigger for “non-state actors” in Mizoram to engineer Monday’s flareup in which five policemen were killed.
Expressing deep anguish over the incident, Mr Sarma said: “How could civilians in battle fatigues and bulletproof vests turn up at the border to attack our policemen with sniper rifles. I have video evidence. I think it should be investigated whether certain vested non-state actors entered the fray.” Mr Sarma posted some videos in the social media of heavily armed Mizo youths positioning on some hilltops targeting Assam police personnel.
Mr Sarma, however, admitted Assam was battling with border problems with several states. “I am meeting with Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma on August 6 to discuss the border problem and planning to have another meeting with Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu soon to discuss and resolve the border issue at the earliest,” said the CM, while pointing out that border disputes can only be resolved by the Central government.
It is significant that there were reports of a problem on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border too as the head of a local organisation, the Wancho Council, Mr Sompha Wangsa, on Wednesday alleged that armed personnel of a Assam police battalion had on July 19 allegedly destroyed a paddy field in Longkhojan village in Kanubari circle of Longing district of Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that the area belonged to Assam.
The incident on Assam-Mizoram border has surcharged the atmosphere in the disputed areas of Nagaland as well as Meghalaya, security sources said, fearing that it may flare up if preventive steps are not taken swiftly.
Pointing out that the situation on the Assam-Mizoram border was still tense, the security sources said the Union home ministry had started the deployment of the CRPF in trouble-torn areas to act as a “neutral force” for both states. The sources, however, said that the complete deployment of paramilitary forces may take some time as they are shifted from other parts of the region.
A delegation of the Assam Congress led by PCC chief Bhupen Bora was on Wednesday not allowed to visit the conflict area of Assam-Mizoram border. “We came here to see the condition of people in the border areas after the conflict. We wanted permission to visit the inter-state border --not the Indo-Pakistan border -- but were not allowed. Our delegation, comprising five members, including Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia, had the right to visit our people in the border area,” said the PCC chief after they were not allowed to visit the border.
Meanwhile, normal life in the three districts of Assam’s Barak Valley was completely affected on Wednesday due to a a 12-hour bandh called to protest against the killing of seven people, including five policemen, in the recent border clash with Mizoram. Several social organisations in Hailakandi district blocked roads leading to Mizoram and launched an indefinite “economic blockade: to prevent the movement of trucks laden with goods bound for the neighbouring state. All businesses remained closed and only a few vehicles plied on the roads of Mizoram-bordering Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, while emergency services were exempted from the purview of the Barak Valley bandh that began at 5 am.
The bandh, called by Barak Democratic Front (BDF) and supported by political outfits including the Opposition AIUDF and social outfits, was total and there were no reports of any untoward incident from any district, another official said.