Assam issues advisory against travel to Mizoram, both States trade barbs over police deployment

The advisory pointed out that there had been several cases of violent skirmishes in border areas between Assam and Mizoram

Assam government on Thursday issued a travel advisory asking people not to travel to Mizoram and advised people from the state working or staying there to “exercise utmost caution.” The two States also traded accusations over deployment of security forces along the interstate border on Thursday, three days after both sides were locked in a fierce gun battle near the boundary that left six policemen and a civilian dead.

The travel advisory, which is perhaps a first of its kind issued by any State government, signed by Assam Home Secretary M.S. Manivannan said “given the prevailing situation, the people of Assam are advised not to travel to Mizoram as any threat to personal safety of people of Assam cannot be accepted.”

The advisory pointed out that there had been several cases of violent skirmishes in border areas between Assam and Mizoram and also claimed “certain members of Mizo civil society, students and youth organisations are constantly issuing provocative statements against Assam and its people”.

It also claimed it had been reliably learnt from video footage available with Assam police, that many Mizoram civilians remain deployed armed with automatic weapons at the border.

Earlier in the day, Cachar Guardian Minister Ashok Singhal alleged that while Assam has withdrawn its police forces from the border after the central government ordered deployment of CRPF personnel at the Assam-Mizoram border, Aizwal was yet to do so.

He, claimed Mizoram wanted to settle the dispute “by arms and ammunitions”, which is the “wrong approach”.

A defiant Mizoram government, meanwhile, countered stating a large contingent of Assam Police personnel was being mobilised at the interstate border.

Mizoram Home Secretary Lalbiaksangi, in a letter to the Additional Secretary in-charge of the Northeast on Thursday, said armed personnel of Assam Police were moving to Dholai and Hawaithang areas in Cachar district, where violence had erupted on Monday.

“In view of the tense situation at present, mobilisation of a large contingent of police at the interstate border by Assam is quite objectionable, and will lead to apprehension and panic among the people on both sides,” she said.

Lalbiaksangi also urged the Union home ministry to issue instructions to the Assam government to refrain from such “reinforcement”.

The Cachar guardian minister however said Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma wants the dispute to be resolved through dialogue.

“We want peace, and have handed over our post to the CRPF, but the Mizoram government has still not withdrawn its personnel from the post, which is sad,” Singhal said.

The minister, who visited Lailapur near the interstate border, assured locals that all measures will be taken by the Assam government to ensure their safety and security and appealed to them not to panic. On Wednesday, during a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla in Delhi, both state governments had agreed to deploy Central Armed Police Force personnel in the disturbed areas under the supervision of union home ministry. Earlier in the day, Singhal along with a delegation reviewed the prevailing situation and held talks with officials at the border.

They also met families of deceased constables Manjurul Haque Barbhuiya and Shyamsundar Dusat and gave cheques amounting to ₹50 lakh each.

A Cachar district official had on Thursday morning said the situation along the Assam-Mizoram was now “calm and under control”.

The Assam home department also ordered the checking of all vehicles coming in from Mizoram, claiming drugs were making their way from Mizoram which borders Myanmar.

In a separate order the Assam government directed the Deputy Commissioners of Kamrup Metro and Cachar, Guwahati Police Commissioner and Cachar Superintendent of Police to ensure the safety and security of all persons from Mizoram as well as those staying at Mizoram Houses at Guwahati and Silchar.

Mizoram has earlier made an appeal to its people to protect non-Mizos staying in the tribal state, while promised them due protection.

Tension along the border with Mizoram in Cachar and Hailakandi districts of Assam have been escalating since October 2020 with frequent incidents of burning of houses and encroachment of land.

The two States share a 164.6-km border between Assam’s Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, and Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl.

Both states have differing interpretations of their territorial border. While Mizoram believes that its border lies along an ‘inner line’ drawn up in 1875 to protect tribals from outside influence, Assam goes by a district demarcation done in the 1930s.

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