The Mizoram government on Wednesday agreed to pull back troops from the Assam border, where violent clashes had erupted on October 17 between the residents of the two states, NDTV reported. At least four people were injured in the attack.
The decision was made as the Centre intervened in the matter after days of simmering tension along the Assam-Mizoram boundary. Union Home Minister Amit Shah held separate telephonic conversations with the chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram to resolve the stalemate between the two states.
Mizoram announced it would retreat its security forces from the area at a meeting of senior officials of both states with Union Home Ministry Joint Secretary Satyendra Kumar Garg, in-charge of North East affairs, in Assam’s Silchar on Wednesday evening.
“We will move back the security forces which had come down to Assam side,” Mizoram Home Secretary Pi Lalbiaksangi told journalists after the meeting, according to the Hindustan Times. “This should help stranded vehicles to enter Mizoram.” Lalbiaksangi, however, said that no discussion on the border dispute took place during the meeting.
Assam also assured its best efforts to resume the movement of trucks carrying essential commodities to Mizoram that have been stranded on its side of the border. “In view of the present situation, we had requested Mizoram to withdraw the forces which they had deployed on the Assam side,” said Assam Home Commissioner GD Tripathi. “Mizoram has consented and the issue of deployment of forces has been resolved.”
Garg, who hurried to Silchar to defuse tensions between the states, said Assam and Mizoram have agreed to resolve issues amicably. “It has been a very fruitful meeting between the Centre, Assam and Mizoram,” he added.
In his conversation with the chief ministers, Shah enquired about the steps taken by the state governments to normalise the situation at the border, unidentified officials told NDTV. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal informed him that a senior-level government officials’ discussion to address the issue had already begun.
Sonowal reportedly added that Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, during a telephonic talk earlier, assured to take positive steps for bolstering peace at the border.
Mizoram was part of Assam till 1972, before it became 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.
Much of the boundary is contested and the two states have often argued over it, sometimes violently. Several rounds of talks, at various levels, since 1994 have failed to resolve the disagreement.
Both sides have their own version of what led to the escalation on October 17. Mizoram district officials and ethnic outfits allege it began at noon when some residents of Cachar, in the presence of Assam police officials, dismantled a Mizoram police post at a village called Saihapui, along the state border, and manhandled the personnel stationed there. “A Covid checkpoint was destroyed by Assam locals in the presence of Assam police,” H Lalthangliana, Kolasib’s deputy commissioner, told Scroll.in.
“In turn, Mizoram residents mobilised and went after them,” Kolasib added. “People from Lailapur broke the status quo and allegedly constructed some temporary huts. People from Mizoram side went and set fire on them.”
Mizo civil society groups said the clashes were triggered by stone pelting from Lailapur.
But the Cachar district administration in Assam refuted the claims. “Some Mizo people came inside the Assam area and burned some temporary shops along the road,” Bhanwar Lal Meena, Cachar’s police superintendent, told Scroll.in. “There was no aggression from the Assam side – all that happened was from the other side.”