An age-old boundary dispute at a contested border point between two of India’s northeastern states – Assam and Mizoram – erupted in violent clashes between the police forces of both states on Monday.
At least five personnel from Assam’s police force have died, while 50 of them were injured in the clashes with Mizoram’s police personnel. One of the injured is a senior officer, a superintendent of Assam’s Cachar district.
The incident occurred over a long-standing border demarcation dispute, with both states accusing each other of encroaching on territory that each state claims to be theirs.
One firing incident occurred two days after federal home minister Amit Shah met the chief ministers of both states – who have been trading accusations on Twitter – to discuss the boundary issues, reported Indian Express.
In a statement, the Assam government confirmed five of their personnel were killed and blamed Mizoram for instigating the violence.
Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in a tweet, said “clear evidences are now beginning to emerge (sic)” that Mizoram used light machine guns.
Mizoram, on the other hand, said the violence started after the Assam police crossed the state border and “overran” a police post at Kolasib district, which is in Mizoram territory.
The Mizoram government, on the other hand, said 200 police personnel from Assam encroached the border at Vairengte.
The police personnel “forcibly crossed the duty post manned by CRPF personnel stationed there and overran a duty post manned by one section of Mizoram police personnel,” said a statement by Mizoram’s home minister, quoted by Indian Express.
Zoramthanga, Mizoram’s Chief Minister, in a tweet, asked the Assam police to be “instructed to withdraw from Vairengte for the safety of civilians”.
Mr Sarma posted a video on Twitter claiming that Mizoram personnel celebrated the killing of the police officers
Tensions have long been simmering over the 164-kilometre-long interstate border – which comprises three districts in each state – with the last clash reported in June.
“We are firm on our stand to protect the territorial integrity of Assam at any cost. At the same time, we will ensure the safety of all civilians, either of Assam or from Mizoram,” Mr Sarma said at a press conference on Tuesday evening.
Opposition parties, meanwhile, held Narendra Modi’s federal government responsible for the violence and the border dispute between the two states.
A seven-member committee by the opposition Congress will be formed, party leader Jitendra Singh Alwar said on Tuesday. The committee will “assess the dispute and the ensuing violence that has cost the lives of police personnel among others”.
Mr Shah has also reportedly intervened in the clash – and the public spat among the chief ministers – and has urged them to stop “miscreants” on either side of the border and bring an end to the violence, sources told Indian Express.