Aided by leaders of a mass-based voluntary organisation who negotiated on their behalf, 100 armed Mizoram policemen were finally able to leave Selam village in eastern Champhai district with 14 arrested men after being besieged for almost 24 hours by angry villagers protesting the arrest of their community leaders.
The men — among them five elected Village Council members — have been remanded to police custody by a local court and booked for various crimes, including intentionally using fire to destroy property, theft and obstructing officials on duty.
Villagers had clashed with policemen within the village on Thursday morning and tear-gas had to be fired when villagers refused to allow the police from leaving with the men, accused of instigating locals to burn a forst department truck used to seize timber believed to be cut from a nearby wildlife sanctuary last week.
Local leaders of the Young Mizo Association had travelled from district headquarters Champhai to Selam on Thursday night to negotiate with the angry villagers. Tension was eventually diffused and the police were finally able to leave with the arrested men early Friday morning. They reached Champhai before noon.
Villagers and leaders of the Mizo Students Union who visited the village meanwhile said seeveral people — including 16 women, 6 schoolchildren and 7 minors — were hurt in the clashes. Lura, a villager, said at least 10 had to be taken to a hospital at nearby Hnahlan for treatment.