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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

NE CMs dial down tensions: Mizoram withdraws FIR against Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam drops FIR against Mizo MP

Union Home Minister Amit Shah too had a telephonic discussion with Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga towards a peaceful resolution of the border differences

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: August 2, 2021 10:55:24 am
At least seven people from Assam, including six police personnel, were killed in the violence amid the border dispute between the two Northeastern states. (Express Photo by Tora Agarwala)

For the first time since the clashes along the Assam-Mizoram border almost a week ago, Chief Ministers of the two states on Sunday sought to dial down the tensions between their people and security personnel.

In what can be seen as a first step towards de-escalation, the Mizoram government said it would withdraw the FIR filed against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, registered on July 26. Hours later, late Sunday night, Sarma said he would take the “goodwill gesture ahead” and drop the FIR against K Vanlalvena, Rajya Sabha MP from Mizoram, who had been booked by the Assam Police in connection with a media interview he had given.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah too had a telephonic discussion with Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga towards a peaceful resolution of the border differences earlier in the day. After the talks, Zoramthanga Sunday said in a tweet: “…in order to prevent any possible escalation of the situation, I request the people of Mizoram to avoid posting sensitive messages and make judicious use of their social media platform.”

The Mizoram CM said in the talks with Shah and Sarma, the three “agreed to resolve the Mizoram-Assam border issue amicably through meaningful dialogue”.

Two hours later, Assam CM Sarma said what happened along the border was “unacceptable to the people of both the states”. “Our main focus is on keeping the spirit of North-East alive… Honble CM @ZoramthangaCM had promised to call me post his quarantine. Border disputes can only be resolved through discussion,” he said in a tweet.

Zoramthanga is currently in quarantine after his PSO tested positive for Covid-19. His test results are expected Monday.

Since the border clashes which killed six Assam police personnel, there had been an impasse, with both states stationing their forces at the border, along with the CAPF — neither ready to back down.

Late on Sunday night, Sarma wrote: “I have noted statements in media by Honble CM @ZoramthangaCM wherein he has expressed his desire to settle the border dispute amicably. Assam always wants to keep the spirit of North East alive. We are also committed to ensuring peace along our borders.” He added: “I have directed @assampolice to withdraw FIR against K. Vanlalvena , Honble MP, Rajya Sabha from Mizoram. However cases against other accused police officers will be pursued.”

While Sarma was not summoned by the Mizoram Police, the other six officers were. Assam, too, had sent summons to six officials of Mizoram’s Kolasib district on July 30.

News agency PTI quoted Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuango saying that Chief Minister Zoramthanga had not approved the inclusion of Sarma’s name in the FIR. “I will hold discussion with the police officer who filed the FIR, and if there is no legal fit, we would like to remove the name of Assam chief minister from the FIR,” he said.

When contacted, David H Lalthangliana, Deputy Secretary, Home Department, Mizoram, told The Indian Express, “The Chief Secretary has said we will take steps to remove his name. Since it is a Sunday today, what the Chief Secretary has told the reporters will materialise tomorrow, after he holds discussions with the police officers, and does the necessary formalities. Since it’s a police matter, it will have to be taken up by the police authorities,” he said.

Two Union government functionaries in Delhi told the PTI that the Centre wanted a peaceful resolution to the dispute and Home Minister Shah was in regular touch with the two CMs. “Both the state governments are cooperating and the central government is assured that there will be no more border flare-ups,” one of them said.

The two functionaries also said there was no formal request from either Assam or Mizoram for a probe by a neutral agency, and the Centre too did not plan to order such an inquiry by CBI.

Sarma told reporters he had always wanted peace from the Assam side. “We have never tried to encroach on any land…in fact, last year when the border issue had surfaced (during the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government), I had only fixed it by way of discussion,” he said. These things were “not good”, he said, especially when his government’s main aim was “development”.

“Assam government is ready to talk to the Mizoram government at any point of time — be in Aizawl, Silchar or Guwahati,” Sarma said. “I was in touch with Mr Zoramthanga three-four days back. I called him no less than 20 times. He said he will talk to me once his quarantine is over…I am certain, he will definitely call me back,” he said.

A senior officer from Mizoram said the removal of Sarma’s name from the FIR was a first “gesture of peace from Mizoram side.” “It is a positive step and confidence building measure that has been taken by us,” he had said.

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