The Mizoram government on Thursday accused the Assam Police of kidnapping a construction worker from the disputed border between the two states.

The accusation came amid simmering border tension between Assam and Mizoram. Five Assam police officers were killed on July 26 after the dispute escalated.

The worker was part of a road construction project in Aitlang, according to NDTV. Aitlang is a few kilometers from Mizoram’s Vairengte village.

Rohan Kumar Jha, the deputy commissioner of Assam’s Hailakandi district, alleged that Mizoram was building roads inside Assam’s territory, the news channel reported.

The Assam government claimed that the police had not done anything illegal and had just confronted the man, according to NDTV.

However, Mizoram’s Kolasib Deputy Commissioner H Lalthlangliana alleged that the construction worker was blindfolded and kidnapped at gunpoint by the Assam police officers from Aitlang.

“He [the worker] was then dragged to the river and threatened,” Lalthlangliana wrote in a letter to the deputy commissioner of Assam’s Hailakandi district, Rohan Kumar Jha. “His mobile phone along with JCB keys were taken by the Assam Police.”

Describing the incident as serious, Lalthlangliana warned that it could exacerbate the border row as both states have deployed large number of armed policemen. He urged his counterpart in Assam’s Hailakandi district to take necessary action against those involved in the alleged kidnapping.

Jha, the deputy commissioner of Assam’s Hailakandi district, offered a different version of the incident.

“Assam Forest staff along with the Assam Police went to the Kachurthal Balicherra area and noticed that a road was being constructed inside the constitutional boundary of Assam and instructed the driver to stop the construction and immediately return to Mizoram,” he told NDTV.

Jha added that when the police told the worker that he would be arrested for trespassing, he stopped his work and returned to Mizoram. “The allegations mentioned in your letter are baseless and fictitious,” Jha told Lalthlangliana.

Hailakandi Superintendent of Police Gourav Upadhyay also refuted the allegations of kidnapping, EastMojo reported. He said the claims made by the Mizoram government was “absolutely concocted, baseless, malafide and devoid of any facts”.

The border dispute

In 1972, Mizoram was carved out of Assam and made into a separate Union Territory. In 1987, it became a full-fledged state. The three South Assam districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj share a 164.6-km-long border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts.

The dispute between both the states stems from differing views on which border demarcation to follow.

Mizoram’s perception of the border is based on an 1875 notification that flows from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873. The Act demarcated the hills from the plains and valleys in the North East, restricting free travel between the two zones. The hills were deemed to be “excluded areas”.

Assam, for its part, goes by a 1933 notification by the state government that demarcated the Lushai Hills, as Mizoram was then known, from the province of Manipur.

Several rounds of dialogue at various levels since 1994 have failed to resolve the matter, leading to the occasional violence and disagreements.