New Delhi: Four days after the longstanding border dispute between Mizoram and Assam led to a fresh bout of violence, both the north-eastern states agreed to sort out the issue amicably at the intervention of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
According to local news reports, in an immediate step to scale down the tensions, the Mizoram government has withdrawn its forces from the border with Assam after a meeting of the home secretaries of both the states in the presence of MHA (Northeast) joint secretary Satyendra Garg at the circuit house in Assam’s Silchar town, bordering Mizoram.
Prior to the meeting, the home secretaries of both the states held a meeting at Lailapur in Silchar district, close to the inter-state border, where the violence had taken place.
At least 20 houses and shops were gutted at Lailapur on the night of October 17, reportedly by residents of Vairengte on the Mizoram side following an altercation. While the residents of Lailapur claimed that they protested against the restriction of their movement on the National Highway that passes through Vairengte, linking the two states, those from Vairengte said they retaliated because they were attacked with sharp weapons by Lailapur residents.
Tensed situation at Assam-Mizoram border in Cachar & Karimganj Distt since yesterday. Miscreants, with the help of Mizo Police, entered into Assam & burnt several houses injuring many. I urge Hon. CM @sarbanandsonwal to urgently look into the matter and take necessary action.
— Maulana Badruddin Ajmal (@BadruddinAjmal) October 18, 2020
According to some reports, a checkpost was put up on the Mizoram side on October 16 which was removed by authorities from the Assam side, leading to the dispute. Both the states have a longstanding border row which has led to sporadic incidents over the years.
The deputy commissioners of both the affected border districts – Silchar (Assam) and Kolasib (Mizoram) – were present at the October 21 meeting at Lailapur.
“The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere with both sides agreeing to restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas and to instil a sense of security among the people,” a report in The Assam Tribune said. The report said, as a confidence building measure, both sides would have a monthly meeting “at the deputy commissioner level, Superintendent of Police-level and District Forest Officer-level to hammer out any issues”.
After both the meetings on October 21, Assam home secretary G.D. Tripathi told reporters, “Efforts are on to start movement of trucks carrying essential commodities stranded on the Assam side of the border with Mizoram.”
The truckers have remained on the Assam side, in Lailapur and Bhaga Bazaar areas, leading to fear of shortage of essential goods in Mizoram. Mizoram Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister K. Lalrinliana was quoted in The Mizoram Post saying that the state could face shortage of cooking gas and fuel if truckers were reluctant to enter it.
He said around 80 trucks carrying oil and cooking gas cylinders were stranded at Lailapur and Bhaga Bazaar on the Assam-Mizoram border.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has said that his government would have to procure essential goods from outside the country (meaning Myanmar and Bangladesh with which the state shares borders) if truckers from Assam continue to refuse to enter Mizoram.
On October 20, Zoramthanga had called Union home minister Amit Shah to express “regret” at the incident and reportedly assured all steps to restore cordial relations between the two states. On October 19, he also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the matter. Sonowal had said that the Prime Minister’s Officer was informed of the matter.
After the October 21 high-level meeting at the Silchar circuit house, the officials of both the states have agreed to provide security to the truckers.
As per a press statement released by Assam’s Information and Public Relations department, the state’s home secretary has asked his Mizoram counterpart Pi Lalbiaksangi to arrest those involved in the arson on October 17 at Lailapur.