Assam Mizoram attack

Traffic movement into Mizoram from neighbouring Assam resumed Saturday midnight, days after the unannounced economic blockade was imposed on the National Highway-306 in Dholai-Lailapur area in Assam’s Cachar district bordering Mizoram since July 26 clash, an official said on Sunday.

The development came after the intervention of Assam ministers and bureaucrats (at the direction of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma), who convinced local people to let in vehicles into Mizoram, highly-placed sources in Assam said.

Assam urban development, irrigation minister, who also holds the portfolio of guardian minister of Cachar, Kokrajhar and Udalguri districts Ashok Singhal said that traffic movement started at around 9:04 pm on Saturday after discussion with the representatives of local people.

However, a Mizoram high-ranking official, who refused to be named, alleged that vehicles were released only after some Mizoram bound vehicles released from Mizoram House in Silchar on Saturday afternoon were vandalised and drivers assaulted by a mob at Lailapur, the last border village in Assam.

Kolasib Superintendent of Police (SP), Vanlalfaka Ralte said that more than 50 vehicles mostly carrying goods have entered Mizoram between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“Traffic movement between the two neighbouring states as of now is quite smooth. Traffic has been moving continuously towards Assam from the Mizoram side even after the July 26 incident. However, we are still on alert as the untoward incident can happen at any time,” Ralte, who is camping at Vairengte, said.

Meanwhile, Silchar Mizoram House Liaison Officer (LO) Kaptluanga said that at least 9 Mizoram-bound vehicles were attacked and vandalised by miscreants at Lailapur on Saturday night.

The incident occurred at around 6 pm even as two Assam ministers Ashok Singhal and Parimal Suklabaidya, who holds excise, forest and environment and fisheries portfolios, and other bureaucrats, including Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jali and SP Ramandeep Kaur were present at the spot.

He said that the vehicles were released from the Mizoram House at around 3:40 pm on Saturday after an assurance given by Cachar SP that they will be protected.

“Soon after Cachar SP assured me through a WhatsApp text, personnel of Assam police appeared to escort the vehicles. But as I was careful because of the incident that happened last year so I rang up the SP, who told me that she has already given me a written assurance through Whatsapp, to protect the vehicles,” he said.

He said that 8 heavy trucks and mini trucks, which were joined by another truck from the outskirt of Silchar, were released from the Mizoram house after consultation with the state home secretary and Kolasib DC following the assurance, who also advised him to release the vehicles to build mutual trust between the two states.

When the vehicles reached Lailapur (about 45 km from Silchar) after halting for about an hour near Sonabarighat about 12 km Silchar at the behest of an Assam minister, the miscreants suddenly attacked the vehicles by pelting stone bricks in the presence of Assam ministers and bureaucrats, he alleged.

“When the vehicles were about to reach Sonabarighat, Sir Ashok Singhal informed to stop the vehicles as he was holding talks with the local people. Within few minutes of their halt, Cachar DC suggested me to let the vehicles move again saying they will give protection as they were present at Lailapur. But all the awkward incidents suddenly happen when they reached Lailapur,” he alleged.

Assam ministers and officials could not be contacted for comment.

According to Kaptluanga, at least 4 drivers sustained injuries and 7 out of 9 vehicles have returned to Silchar after the incident.

He alleged that Assam police personnel who escorted Mizoram bound vehicles from the Mizoram house in Silchar had deserted the drivers mid-way only to be exposed to an angry mob on October 31 last year.

The unannounced economic blockade allegedly sponsored by the Assam government was imposed on NH-306 after the July 26 violent clash that left at least 7 people, including 6 Assam policemen, dead and scores injured on both sides.

When this correspondent visited the Dholai-Lailapur area on Saturday, the local people and stranded drivers gave mixed reactions to the alleged blockade.

While some linked the blockade to July 26 incident and blamed the Mizoram government and demanded actions against persons responsible for the death of seven Assamese, the other groups alleged that it was not only the locals of Lailapur but Assam police, that refused vehicles to travel to Mizoram.

A local driver, who chose to be anonymous, said “We have been stranded for more than 10 days and we were prevented from entering Mizoram by police, who threatened us that it is not safe to go.”

Another trader by the name of Mazurok Mazumdar said that the public or residents of both states should not create any trouble as the dispute is solely between two-state governments.

“Economic blockade will result in only suffering of people on both sides as we are economically interdependent. I have two trucks fully loaded with goods and now the goods are getting rotten,” he said.

He wished that peace prevail between the two states.

Rahul Hussain, another stranded driver, said they are willing to enter Mizoram but demanded a written assurance for protection to be given to them.

Even if they were able to enter Mizoram and face no backlash there, they were apprehensive of being attacked after their return to the neighbouring state, another driver said.

A local leader, who is in his mid-60, said they were feared of being attacked in Mizoram after the July 26 incident.

He also demanded that action be taken against persons, responsible for the death of seven Assamese.

Another local leader, who refused to be named, said the people along Dholai-Bhaga are very calm and peaceful.

He alleged that it was some miscreants in Lailapur, who created trouble and prevented vehicles from moving into Mizoram.

Earlier, a BJP MLA in Cachar Kaushik Rai had reportedly said that local people would not concede even if the state government or police ask to lift the blockade.

“It is time to remind the Mizos that they will starve without the support of Assam,” the MLA was quoted as saying by a section of media.

However, Cachar SP Ramandeep Kaur said that all efforts are on to ensure smooth traffic movement between Mizoram and Assam and restore peace, especially in the border areas.

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