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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Delhi steps in, Assam talks Supreme Court, Mizoram for peaceful ‘resolution’

As the Centre stepped in, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government would deploy 4,000 commandos along the state’s 165-km boundary with Mizoram, and move the Supreme Court to ensure that the reserve forest in the disputed area is protected and no settlement comes up there.

Written by Tora Agarwala , Deeptiman Tiwary | Guwahati, New Delhi |
Updated: July 28, 2021 7:42:02 am
Assam CM Sarma visits policemen injured in the clash with Mizoram forces, at a hospital in Silchar Tuesday. (PTI)

A day after six Assam Police personnel and a civilian were killed in firing and clashes at a disputed border point between Assam and Mizoram, the Ministry of Home Affairs summoned the Chief Secretaries and Director Generals of Police of the two states to Delhi Wednesday as part of efforts to dial down tensions.

As the Centre stepped in, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government would deploy 4,000 commandos along the state’s 165-km boundary with Mizoram, and move the Supreme Court to ensure that the reserve forest in the disputed area is protected and no settlement comes up there.

Sarma’s remarks followed a statement Monday night from Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana who accused the Assam Police of “forcibly” crossing over and overrunning a post manned by Mizoram Police.

Calling it an “intrusion and aggression into the territory of Mizoram,” Lalchamliana, while regretting “the needless injuries on both sides”, urged Assam to “create congenial environment for peaceful resolution of the dispute”.

Official sources said the CRPF, deployed in the disputed area of the boundary between the districts of Cachar (Assam) and Kolasib (Mizoram), had taken over a post vacated by the Assam Police but Mizoram Police personnel were still to vacate their post. The situation on the ground was tense but under control, sources said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, sources said, was in touch with Chief Ministers Sarma and Zoramthanga. “He has had telephonic conversations with both, multiple times during the day to take stock of the situation. Instructions have been passed to ensure no further violence takes place,” sources in the MHA said.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla is learnt to have summoned the DGPs and Chief Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram to Delhi Wednesday for a meeting on the Monday incident and the future course of action.

In Silchar, headquarters of the Cachar district, Sarma visited the injured police personnel at the Silchar Medical College and Hospital and also paid tributes to the policemen killed in the firing – while five policemen died Monday, the sixth succumbed to injuries Tuesday.

In a Twitter post Tuesday night, Sarma said: “I am sad to inform that Shyamprasad Dusat of 6th AP Bn has succumbed to his abdominal bullet injury at SMCH. He couldn’t be operated or moved to Guwahati because of his worsening condition. I salute the brave martyr and bow in reverence. My heartfelt condolences to the family.”

Earlier, he said his government would deploy 4000 commandos along the Assam-Mizoram border.

Commando battalions, he said, would be deployed in Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj – these three districts make Assam’s Barak Valley which has a 165-km border with Mizoram.

Speaking to reporters, Sarma said this was not a fight against the people of Mizoram, and that Assam did not believe in enforcing any economic blockade.

He said this was “not a political issue”, but “a boundary dispute between two states” which existed even when there were Congress governments in both the states. “This is a dispute between two states, not between two political parties,” he said.

Sarma said the dispute was related to the use of a reserve forest. He said satellite images have shown that roads are being constructed and forests cleared for jhum cultivation in the area and this cannot be allowed.

“Can reserve forest be utilised for settlement? … The dispute is not regarding land. This dispute is regarding forest. Assam wants to protect the forest. It’s not organising any settlement in the forest area… We don’t want any settlement inside the forest,” he said.

He said the state government would file a suit in the Supreme Court to ensure that forests are protected.

“The contested land is in reserve forests, and we need to see that they remain so. I have told the Mizoram Chief Minister that we have no intention to settle anyone there. All we want to do is protect forest land,” he said.

On the killing of Assam Police personnel, Sarma said there will be an investigation, including into the arming of civilians.

He announced the grant of Rs 50 lakh each to the kin of police personnel killed in the incident. He said a family member of each would be given a government job. The injured, he said, would receive Rs 1 lakh each.

The Assam government has declared state mourning for three days as a mark of respect for the policemen killed on duty.

Sarma said: “Assam will not launch a counter-attack. We will not attack somebody who belongs to the same country.” Recalling past incidents, he said: “How can you use arms, ammunition to settle a dispute between two states? it is not the China-India boundary.”

On Tuesday evening, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga posted a photo on Twitter showing an injured man on a hospital bed.

“Lalmuansanga, resident of Vairengte Venhlun, who suffered grievous bullet wound fired by Assam Police yesterday is currently undergoing treatment at Kolasib Civil Hospital. Utmost medical care available is given. All expenses will be borne by the Mizoram Government,” he said.

Kolasib SP K Vanlalfaka Ralte said: “The situation is under control and not at all like yesterday, but there is still some residual apprehension and tension. So we are keeping a close watch — in case Assam tries to come into our territory again.”

“We are worried about National Highway 306 getting blocked because this is the route through which many essential supplies come into Mizoram. We are allowing trucks to exit but no truck from Assam is coming in. So we are concerned that it will lead to a shortage of supplies… We have many injuries on the Mizo side also. One person is critical and 8-9 are injured,” he said.

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