Aizawl: Over the past ten months, anyone who was observing the Assam-Mizoram border standoff would have known that things were far from smooth. Sure, what happened yesterday may have surprised a lot of people, but again, tensions were simmering for long. And that was one main reason why the Central Government had deployed the Central Reserve Police Force.
Even as we have barely recovered from the incident on Monday, it seems that during the entire turmoil, something major seemed missing. And people are noq questioning the same.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed along the Mizoram-Assam border on Tuesday received a barrage of criticism from different quarters for allegedly failing to carry out its “responsibility” as neutral force to maintain peace and prevent police personnel and civilians from Assam from forcibly entering the security force’s camps inside Mizoram on Monday.
The criticism came a day after violent clashes and exchange of fire between Mizoram and Assam forces over decades-old boundary dispute on the outskirts of Vairengte in Kolasib district and near Lailapur in Assam that led to the death of at least five cops from Assam.
Central paramilitary forces have been deployed along the Mizoram-Assam border by the Central government to defuse tension and maintain peace after a border standoff in August last year.
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While the CRPF is deployed on the Mizoram side, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) are camped on Assam side in Lailapur as “neutral forces” to maintain peace along the border areas.
Mizoram Information and Public Relations minister Lalruatkima alleged that both the paramilitary forces failed to prevent armed police personnel and civilians from Assam from intruding into Mizoram territory despite the vulnerability of the situation, which could turn violent at any time.
He alleged that unarmed Mizoram police officers were denied protection by CRPF personnel when they rushed to the CRPF base when firing took place between two state forces on Monday.
“The bloody clash could have been averted had the CRPF personnel prevented Assam police from entering Mizoram territory and restrained them,” Lalruatkima, who is currently camping at Vairengte, said.
Lalrinsanga Ralte, an MLA of Serlui constituency under which Vairengte falls, also accused CRPF personnel of backing armed police personnel and civilians from Assam in entering Mizoram territory.
He alleged that Assam police came fully armed, took over the CRPF camp and forcefully drove off around 15 personnel of Mizoram police from their duty post located a few meters from the CRPF camp on the outskirts of Vairengte.
The Assam police then clashed with residents of Vairengte, who tried to prevent them from setting up a tent at Mizoram territory, Ralte alleged.
The MLA said the people of Mizoram have no more faith in the paramilitary force as far as maintaining neutrality and restoring peace in the border areas are concerned.
Vairengte joint village council chairman R. Lalfamkima also blamed the CRPF for allegedly failing to carry out their responsibility to defuse tensions.
He alleged that the Assam police accompanied by civilians came with arms and also brought ambulances. They crossed past the CRPF camp and forcefully drove out Mizoram police from their duty post.
“They (Assam police) clashed with civilians from Assam, fired tear gas, mob bomb and later live ammunition towards civilians and Mizoram forces at a time when discussions were going on between top cops of the two states,” Lalfamkima, who was present at the incident site on Monday said.
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He alleged that the CRPF personnel remained silent spectators to the scene and did nothing to stop Assam team from proceeding further and avert clashes.
He also held Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma as responsible for the violent clash and death of five policemen.
Vairengte joint YMA president Zalawta also blamed police personnel and civilians from Assam for crossing two paramilitary forces camps and state policy duty post on the inter-state border, which according to him was the main reason for the violent clashes.
He claimed that the people of Mizoram never crossed the SSB camps near Lailapur in Assam.
Also Read | Mizoram condemns Assam over border aggression
Officials of CRPF were not available for comment.
Meanwhile, the Centre has directed Mizoram government to shift the CRPF camp to the place where Mizoram police are now camping. Both the CRPF and Mizoram police duty camps are located in close proximity to Vairengte.
Lalfamkima said the people of Vairengte have strongly opposed the Centre’s decision to shift the CRPF jawans to Mizoram police camp as they could not repose faith in the jawans for their safety.
Mizoram home minister Lalchamliana on Monday said that around 200 armed personnel of Assam police, led by IGP and Cachar deputy commissioner, came to Vairengte auto rickshaw stand.
They forcibly crossed the duty post manned by CRPF personnel stationed there and overran a duty post manned by 1 (one) section of Mizoram police personnel, he had alleged.
He further alleged tear gas canisters and grenades were launched at Mizoram Police followed by firing from Assam side, which compelled the Mizoram police to retaliate.
Assam government said that Mizoram police opened fire on the Assam officials and civilians while Mizoram Kolasib SP was holding talks with Assam officials on Monday.
At least five cops from Assam were killed and more than 50 injured in the firing between Mizoram and Assam forces that lasted about 47 minutes on Monday.
Plenty of time for CRPF to intervene
It is important to add that the idea that Central security forces were caught unaware also does not hold much ground. Eight days before, Mizoram had levelled human rights violation charge against Assam, a Mizoram official said on Sunday, in a clear sign that the border tensions between Mizoram and Assam remain far from being resolved.
Kolasib district deputy commissioner H. Lalthlangliana had written to his Cachar counterpart complaining of human rights violations and atrocities on tribal people by Assam officials and police during a border stand-off on July 10, the official said.
Copies of the letter were also sent to the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
This letter came two days after Mizoram chief secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo had claimed that Mizoram had not encroached the territory of Assam.
“Assam is laying claims on Mizoram’s territories where the residents of border villages have been occupying for the past 100-plus years. Satelite images will prove that what Assam claims to be its territories have been inhabited by the Mizos for over a century. No encroachment has been made by Mizoram on Assam’s territory. It is the other way round,” Chuaungo had said.
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