Opposition leaders have criticised the Centre for the violence that erupted along the Assam-Mizoram border on Monday, which led to the death of five police officers. They alleged that the government failed to maintain law and order in the region.
Tensions escalated on Monday after reports emerged of firing and clashes between the police forces of both the states. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga squabbled on Twitter and sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s help in resolving the tensions.
The boundary between the two states is disputed at several points and they have often sparred over it, sometimes violently. Several rounds of talks since 1994 have failed to break the impasse. On Saturday, Home Minister Amit Shah had held a meeting in Shillong to try and resolve the row.
On Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Shah had failed the country again by “sowing hatred and distrust into the lives of people”. “India is now reaping its dreadful consequences,” he tweeted along with a video of the incident.
Gandhi offered his condolences to the families of the police officers who died in the clashes. “I hope the injured recover soon,” he added.
Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjwela described the incident as “deeply painful and unacceptable”.
“NDA-BJP Govts [governments] rule Assam and Mizoram and BJP Govt rules in Delhi,” he tweeted. “This is a clear failure of the two CM’s [chief ministers] and Govts to maintain law and order pushing the states into unwarranted violence. What is the accountability of Sh. Amit Shah. Quit or act.”
The Congress set up a seven-member committee to study the Assam-Mizoram situation. Members of the committee, led by Assam Congress chief Bhupen Bora, will visit border areas and submit a report to the party.
Gaurav Gogoi, deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, wrote to Shah, demanding an inquiry into the violence, ANI reported.
“Some media reports say LMG [Light Machine Gun] was used [during the clash on Monday],” Gogoi said. “Are we in our country or on the borders of the country? We demand an enquiry into this incident.”
Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee said he was “shocked and stunned” to hear about the ruthless violence along the Assam-Mizoram border. “Such unremitting incidents under BJP’s watch have invited the death of democracy in our nation,” he tweeted. “INDIA DESERVES BETTER!”
Banerjee’s party colleague Derek O’Brien said: “All eyes on the home minister, who was in the North East a few days ago. His incompetence being exposed one day at a time.”
Meanwhile, the Centre said it was monitoring the situation along the Assam-Mizoram border closely.
“The approach of the central government has consistently been that inter-state disputes can be resolved only with the cooperation of the state governments concerned and that the central government acts only as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in the spirit of mutual understanding,” the home ministry said in the Parliament, according to NDTV.
BJP leader Dilip Saikia demanded that the Mizoram government apologise to Assam for the death of its police officers, PTI reported.
He claimed to have come across a purported video of Mizo people celebrating the deaths. “What Mizoram police along with local people did yesterday [Monday] is condemnable,” he said. “I condemn this barbaric attack on Assamese people and police.”
The Assam government will observe a three-day state mourning from Tuesday for the police officers who died in the clash, PTI reported.
The chief minister also announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh each for their families, ANI reported. Those injured in the clash will receive Rs 1 lakh each.
Tensions between the two states escalated after violent clashes had erupted on October 17 between their residents. The conflict cut off supply of resources to Mizoram as Assam residents blocked highways connecting the two states. Mizo groups reportedly responded by organising their own blockade, preventing truckers from going to Assam.
The Assam government and the state’s border residents said the matter of contention was the deployment of the Mizo police in what Assam claims to be its land.
The Centre then deployed “neutral forces” at the advanced posts to act as a buffer between the police forces of the two states – the Border Security Force on the Mizoram side, and the Sashastra Seema Bal on the Assam side.
Violent clashes had broken out in October in another disputed area at the Cachar-Kolasib section of the border. The dispute also assumed an ethnic tinge as Mizo civil society groups claimed that those behind the violence from Assam were “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh trying to take over Mizo land.
Tensions arose again on November 3, after a 45-year old man from Assam’s Cachar district died in the custody of the Mizoram Police. Two days later, the Centre deployed additional forces for Assam to maintain peace along the state’s borders with Mizoram.
More recently, on July 10, several crops and betel nut trees owned by a Mizoram farmer were allegedly damaged during an “eviction drive” by the Assam police near Phainuam village.
On the same day, unidentified persons had allegedly lobbed a grenade at an Assam government team visiting the border areas. However, the Mizoram government claimed an earth mover’s tyre had burst.
The Mizoram government had responded by deploying forces in what Assam claims is its territory. The Mizos, for their part, insisted that they were only “defending their land”.
On June 30, Mizoram had accused Assam of encroaching upon its land in the Kolasib district.