Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday directed the police to withdraw the First Information Report registered against Mizo National Front MP K Vanlalvena as a “goodwill gesture” following clashes with the neigbouring state. The Mizo National Front is the ruling party in Mizoram.

Sarma, however, said that the cases against other accused police officers will be pursued.

Vanlalvena and six other police officials were booked after tensions escalated along the Assam-Mizoram border on July 26 following reports of firing and clashes between the police of the two states. The states share a 164.6-km-long border, which has long been a cause of dispute.

During the clashes, five Assam Police officers lost their lives. While no casualties were suffered by Mizoram, the state government claimed that around 200 Assam Police personnel had crossed a duty post manned by the Central Reserve Police Force and state police in Vairengte town of Mizoram’s Kolasib district.

Following the FIR, the Mizoram Police had also booked Sarma, four police officers and two bureaucrats on charges of attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy in connection with the clashes. Around 200 unidentified police personnel were also booked.

In a tweet on Monday, Sarma that he has taken note of the statements given by Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in which he had said that he wanted to settle the border dispute amicably. “Assam always wants to keep the spirit of North East alive,” Sarma tweeted. “We are also committed to ensuring peace along our borders.”

On Sunday, Zoramthanga had asserted that he discussed the border dispute with Sarma and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and that they agree with his view to resolve the matter amicably.

Hours after Zoramthanga’s statement, Sarma said that the main focus was on “keeping the spirit of North-East alive”.

“What happened along the Assam-Mizoram border is unacceptable to the people of both states,” Sarma tweeted. “Honourable Chief Minister Zoramthanga had promised to call me post his quarantine. Border disputes can only be resolved through discussion.”

On Sunday, Sarma had also told reporters that he always wanted peace from the Assam side, reported The Indian Express. “We have never tried to encroach on any land…in fact, last year when the border issue had surfaced, I had only fixed it by way of discussion,” he said.

The Assam chief minister said that he was ready to speak with the Mizoram government at any point of time on the dispute.

On Sunday, the Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuango too had said it was ready to withdraw the FIR filed against Sarma.

Deputy Secretary of Mizoram Home Department David H Lalthangliana told The Indian Express that the removal of FIR will take place the next day. “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,” he said.

A senior officer from Mizoram told the newspaper that the removal of Sarma’s name from the FIR was the first gesture of peace from its side.

“It is a positive step and confidence-building measure that has been taken by us,” the official said. “It’s a give and take situation. We have given something…now we hope Assam will also take a positive step.”

Assam-Mizoram dispute

The 164.6-km-long border between the two states has long been a cause of dispute. Three districts in the south of Assam – Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj – share the border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts.

The states have sparred over it, sometimes violently. Several rounds of dialogue since 1994 have failed to resolve the disagreement.

Following the recent clashes, the two states, at a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Wednesday, agreed to the deployment of Central Armed Police Forces in the areas prone to conflict along the state border and National Highway 306. Both the states also decided to withdraw all their police officers from the disputed site where the clashes occurred.

Medical supplies

Mizoram Health Minister R Lalthangliana on Sunday alleged that Assam was blocking the entry of medical supplies, including Covid-19 test kits, into the state, reported PTI.

“As per our information, a state-sponsored economic blockade has been clamped in Assam,” Lalthangliana told the news agency. “Vehicles carrying consignments of essential commodities and life-saving medicines are stranded in the Dholai-Lailapur area in Assam. We will approach the Centre again to take the initiative for resumption of movement of traffic.”

Assam, however, said that there was no economic blockade.

Meanwhile, Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo said the state government has strong faith in the Centre and will send another letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking its intervention for the resumption of traffic movement from Assam.

About 95% of essential supplies come to landlocked Mizoram through Assam via NH 306, which is the lifeline of the state, Chuaungo said.

The Mizoram Home Department had written to Shah twice between July 28 and July 30, seeking intervention for lifting the alleged blockade clamped by the residents of Barak Valley.

Kolasib Superintendent of Police Vanlalfaka also said that no vehicles except those of security forces have entered Mizoram from Assam since the clashes. He, however, said that vehicles going to Assam from Mizoram are being allowed.

“We are making efforts to ensure that vehicles manned by non-tribals move freely to Assam,” he told PTI. “No resident of Mizoram is creating any problem as the people are convinced that it is not a communal issue but a border dispute between the two states.”