New Delhi [India], July 27 (ANI): Union Home Minister Amit Shah's quick intervention and timely action by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) averted a major escalation after Assam and Mizoram police forces opened fire at each other following a dispute at the border on Monday.
However, by that time, six Policemen of Assam had lost their lives in the fierce gun battle between the police forces of the two states.
It was between 4.00 pm and 4.30 pm on Monday when two companies of CRPF-- one from 119 Battalion in Assam and the other from 225 Battalion in Mizoram-- took command to control the crisis following orders from its Director General Kuldiep Singh who got orders from Home Secretary under the direct supervision of Home Minister Shah.
"Luckily the two CRPF companies were deployed at Lailapur-Vairengte disputed site between Assam and Mizoram and were assisting the police forces of other two states respectively in a neutral way in maintaining peace and law and order," CRPF ADG SR Ojha told ANI.
Recalling the sequence of the event, Ojha said both the CRPF companies from these two separate Battalions were already present along with the police forces of Assam and Mizoram but they were neutral and we're not taking sides of any one of them when both sides started firing on each other.
"Mizo police was on height and Assam Police was on the plane. Matter triggered violence suddenly and automatic weapons were firing from both sides after a few rounds of fire from tear gas shells leading to the death of six Assam Policemen," Ojha said in a telephonic conversation with ANI.
Our CRPF companies informed DIG Silchar Shahnawaz about the incident who in turn approached DG CRPF through senior hierarchy, Ojha continued, mentioning "DG CRPF gave a detailed briefing to the Home Secretary (Ajay Bhalla) and the matter was later apprised to the Home Minister".
"CRPF was directed to take control of the situation and simultaneously, Home Minister spoke with both Assam and Mizoram CMs who agreed to return back their police forces from the site," Ojha said.
"Over 300-400 locals were gathered at the spot and the situation got tensed due to firing which led to the death of six Assam Policemen. But our CRPF companies managed to maintain peace at the spot. Locals returned back to their homes as well both Mizoram and Assam Police," he told further.
CRPF has sought the support of reinforcement teams and our aim is to maintain peace and law and order, said the CRPF ADG, adding "we are convincing both sides, including police forces and locals".
"The CRPF made announcements by using loudspeakers. Only Assam police withdrew completely. A few policemen from Mizoram Police led by Superintendent of Police Kolasib is still sitting on the disputed site with few members. DIG Mizoram has also reached there and he is also trying to convince him to leave the place so that peace can be maintained," Ojha said.
Oja further made it clear that the "situation is now under control".
A war of words ensued between Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga and his counterpart from the neighbouring state Himanta Biswa Sarma after the clash which led the Home Minister to intervene.
The incident took place after Shah returned from Meghalaya by completing his two-day visit to the region during the weekend where he held a closed-door meeting with chief ministers of the northeast states.
A clipping shared by Zoramthanga on Twitter showed police trying to stop a clash among men armed with sticks.
In reply to the tweet, Assam Police said miscreants from Mizoram were indulging in stone-pelting and attacking Assam government officials stationed at Lailapur to protect Assam's land from encroachment.
In reply, Sarma shared a clipping and said a superintendent of police from Mizoram was asking Assam's officials to withdraw from their post, failing which civilians from the neighbouring state would not stop the violence. He too sought immediate intervention of Shah and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
"How can we run a government in such circumstances?" Sarma wrote.
Soon after, Zoramthanga wrote to Sarma, "After a cordial meeting of CMs (chaired) by Shah, two companies of Assam Police with civilians lathi-charged and tear-gassed civilians at Vairengte Auto Rickshaw stand inside Mizoram today. They even overrun CRPF personnel/Mizoram Police."
Zoramthanga shared another video with which he wrote that an innocent couple were "manhandled and ransacked by thugs and goons" on their way back to Mizoram via Cachar in Assam. "How are you going to justify these violent acts?" he wrote.
On Saturday, Zoramthanga said border disputes in the northeast are a legacy of the colonial era and lasting peace between states is important for further development of the region.
Speaking on the border dispute with Assam at the CM's meeting, chaired by Shah in Shillong on Saturday, Zoramthanga said the area claimed by the latter has been used by people from Mizoram for over 100 years.
"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," he said.
"The large tract of areas claimed by Assam to be within its constitutional boundary has been used for collection of forest producers and for shifting and settled cultivation for the past 100 plus years by the people of Mizoram, and that Assam started claiming these areas only fairly recently due to population pressure apparently caused by the large-scale influx of migrants from outside Barak valley," he said.
Zoramthanga further requested the Assam government to respect and honour the situation on the ground and desist from disturbing the peace. (ANI)