Five policemen have been reported dead and over 50 members of the police force injured in the violent clashes that erupted around the Assam-Mizoram border on Monday, 26 July, a press release issued by the Assam government says.
One civilian was also killed, while officials said around 10 more were injured and admitted in hospitals, reported PTI.
Two companies of the CRPF (one from 119 Battalion in Assam and the other from 225 Battalion in Mizoram), have been deployed at Lailapur-Vairengte site of contention, CRPF ADG Sanjeev Ranjan Ojha told news agency ANI later on Monday.
Earlier, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had taken to Twitter to write that six Assam Police personnel had lost their lives in a clash along the Assam-Mizoram border in Cachar district.
"I am deeply pained to inform that six brave jawans of Assam Police have sacrificed their lives while defending constitutional boundary of our state at the Assam-Mizoram border," he wrote on Twitter.
A press statement released later clarified that five such deaths have been confirmed so far.
As per officials, Assam's Cachar district SP Nimbalkar Vaibhav Chandrakant was also injured amid firing by Mizoram assailants, ANI reported.
The violence erupted two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah met chief ministers of all the northeastern states in Shillong.
In a press statement, Mizoram Home Minister Pu Lalchamliana iterated the sequence of events along the border on Monday and condemned the "unjustified intrusion and aggression of the Assam government".
What the Mizoram Govt Said
Lalchamliana stated that, around 200 armed Assam Police personnel, led by the Inspector General of Police and accompanied by Cachar's Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police, came to the Vairengte autorickshaw stand in Kolasib District around 11:30 am on Monday.
The Assam Police personnel then allegedly forced their way past a post defended by Central Reserve Police Force as well as the Mizoram Police and damaged vehicles on the National Highway.
Following this intrusion, locals from Vairengte visited the site of arson. The HM claimed, "These unarmed civilians were assaulted by Assam Police personnel by lathi-charging them and firing tear gas, thereby causing injuries to several civilians."
In an attempt to resolve the issue, SP of Kolasib and an Executive Magistrate went to the clash site, However, the Assam Police did not cooperate. As per the statement, tear gas canisters and grenades were launched at Mizoram Police by the Assam Police.
This was followed by firing around 4:50 pm.
Responding to the attack, the Mizoram Police fired back. Meanwhile, the SP negotiated with the Assam Police authorities at the CRPF camp.
Lalchamliana added that only after the Union Home Minister's intervention had the Assam Police withdrawn from the CRPF camp.
"The Government of Mizoram deeply regrets the needless injuries on both sides, which could have been avoided and wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured," Lalchamliana said.
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the CRPF Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Sanjeev Ranjan Ojha said that CRPF companies from the two battalions had remained neutral when both sides started firing on each other.
He added that although the situation is under control, few personnel from Mizoram Police, led by SP Kolasib, are still sitting at disputed site, while the Assam police had withdrawn completely.
What The Assam Govt Said
A press statement released by the Assam government said that in a breach of the existing agreements, the Mizoram government had begun the construction of a road towards Rengti Basti in Assam, destroying the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Lailapur area.
The statement furthered that the Mizoram government had also set up a new armed camp on a hillock, next to the camp of the CRPF.
"In an attempt to diffuse the situation and resolve the matters, a team of Assam officials including an IGP, DIG, DC Cachar, SP Cachar, and DFO Cachar went to the area this morning to request the Mizoram side not to disturb the status quo."Assam Government
The Assam government further asserted that the delegation of police officials was met with an attack from miscreants from Mizoram, who were evidently supported by the state's police. The mob purportedly damaged a police vehicle, while the Mizoram police launched tear gas shells upon the delegation, injuring the IGP.
Later during the day, the SP Kolasib along with other police officials from Mizoram held talks with the Assam delegation, wherein the latter requested the Mizoram side to maintain peace, the press statement said. SP Kolasib, after the discussion, returned to convey that the police officials would be unable to control the mob.
"Horrifically, even while SP Kolasib was in talks with Assam officers, the Mizoram police open fired on the Assam officials and civilians, who had by then gathered there, from two dominating high features with automatic weapons including LMGs."Assam Government
5 Assamese police personnel have died and over 50 injured in the clashes, the press statement said.
"6 Assam Police personnel have died and around 80 people have been injured in the firing. There was no firing from our side. Firing from the Mizoram side was similar to that by the British at Jallianwala Bagh," Assam Minister Parimal Suklabaidya was quoted as saying by ANI.
CMs Reiterate Need for Peace
Sarma and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga had earlier in the day underlined that they had communicated with each other and reiterated the need for maintenance of peace at the border.
The Mizoram CM had urged Sarma to withdraw stationed security personnel, "As discussed, I kindly urge that Assam Police be instructed to withdraw from Vairengte for the safety of civilians," he had tweeted.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah then spoke to both state leaders and asked them to arrive at a resolution over border tensions.
Earlier, both leaders had sought Shah's intervention after Zoramthanga tweeted a video of police clashing with people wielding lathis with the caption: "This needs to be stopped right now."
In another tweet, the CM wrote, "Innocent couple on their way back to Mizoram via Cachar manhandled and ransacked by thugs and goons. How are you going to justify these violent acts? (sic)"
Responding to this, Sarma said that the Mizoram SP was creating a hurdle in the smooth functioning of their government.
The border relations between the two states became more strained after Mizoram Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte on Monday said that eight Mizo-owned farm huts, were set ablaze by unidentified goons around 11:30 pm on Sunday, EastMojo reported.
The border issue had been given prime importance during the meeting between the chief ministers of Northeastern states and Shah on Saturday.
The Border Crisis
The long-standing border dispute escalated in June this year, when Assam police allegedly seized Aitlang hnar, which is 5 km away from Vairengte.
The state police had accused Mizoram of encroaching on its territory.
In the meeting, Zoramthanga underlined that the two states have been involved in a dispute since colonial times.
He said, "The border disputes are a legacy of the colonial era that the present government inherited from its predecessor which has been left unresolved at the time of the formation of states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram," The Hindustan Times reported.
He added that the area claimed by Assam "to be within its constitutional boundary" has been used by the people of Mizoram for collecting produce and cultivation for over a hundred years.
Further, he alleged that the state of Assam has started claiming these areas only fairly recently, owing to the increase in population caused by an influx of migrants from outside Barak valley, Hindustan Times reported.
The CM had also urged the Assamese administration to respect and honour on ground realities, and desist from disturbing peace between the states.
(With inputs from The Hindustan Times and ANI)