New Delhi: Assam is behaving like a “big daddy”, with the attitude of an “aggressor” that led to this week’s violent boundary clash and an economic blockade later, Mizoram Deputy Chief Minister Tawnluia said in an interview to ThePrint.
The comment came as anger brewed in both the states after the clash in which six Assam Police personnel died.
Mizoram called its boundary committee meeting Friday to clarify its position on the dispute, while Assam sent its police to question Mizoram MP K. Vanlalvena in New Delhi in connection with the violence.
“This is not the first time Assam has intruded into our territory… It has repeatedly enforced an economic blockade to punish Mizo people. How will our people survive in this blockade?” Tawnluia said, adding that Assam isn’t behaving like a “brother”.
According to him, Assam is enforcing a blockade on NH-306 and other roads connecting Mizoram with the rest of India. Moreover, he accused the state of damaging railway lines at the Bairabi railhead in Mizoram.
“We have reminded the home ministry several times to sort out this issue but nothing has been sorted out,” he said.
On Monday, violence erupted along the interstate border in a longstanding dispute between Assam and Mizoram that centres on the exact definition of ‘boundary’.
While Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma accused the Mizoram Police of using light machine guns at Assam Police, resulting in the deaths of civilians and five policemen, the Mizoram Deputy CM denied these charges.
“It was Assam that encroached on our land and they came with full preparation to encroach on our land. This is not the first time Assam is behaving like ‘big daddy’. They have intruded the border of Mizoram earlier as well,” Tawnluia said.
According to him, the “most striking part” of the 26 July clash was that the central paramilitary forces, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which form two corridors of security, “did not play a neutral role and did not prevent Assam Police from entering Mizoram territory”.
“They played a partisan role. Assam is having border disputes with other states also. The CRPF didn’t even provide security to our SP and collector during firing. Now they are saying they will approach the Supreme Court. We are ready to fight a lawsuit over our land,” he added.
Assam ‘creating disturbance’
Asked why he thinks Assam isn’t treating Mizoram at par, the deputy CM said Assam is “creating disturbance in our territory” and enforcing an economic blockade to “punish our people”.
“Last year they forced an economic blockade from 17 October to 11 November. Rail lines pass through Assam. If they don’t allow goods to be transported in our area, it will affect the lives of our people. Since Monday they have again enforced a blockade at National Highway 306 and other roads connecting Mizoram with the rest of the country,” Tawnluia said.
“It is a serious concern that one state is treating another state with vengeance. They have damaged railway lines at Bairabi, the only railway line connecting Mizoram. It is a Government of India rail line, not the Assam rail line. We have urged the Centre to lift the blockade and restore normalcy,” he added.
Action so far over the blockade
Over the last two days, Mizoram Home Secretary Pi Lalbiaksangi has written letters to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the Northeast secretary about the blockade that is affecting the daily lives of Mizoram citizens.
In a strong worldly letter, Lalbiaksangi wrote, “No state agency entity or general public has any right to block national highway and railway lines restricting the movement of people and goods.”
Calling Assam the “aggressor” in the 26 July clash, the home secretary also said the CRPF “allowed” the movement of a large contingent of armed Assam Police of around 200 personnel to reach the site. They forcefully occupied the post stating it’s encroachment on the forest reserve, which led to violence, he wrote.
On Wednesday, Bhalla called both the chief secretaries and DGPs of both the states to resolve the issue. Mizoram Chief Secretary Pu Lalnunmawia raised the issue of economic blockade during the meeting.
The CRPF director general also attended the meet as Mizoram has accused the force of a partisan role during violence.
‘Complained, but nothing happened’
Mizoram Deputy CM Tawnluia, who heads the state’s boundary commission constituted last week, held a meeting Friday to deal with the boundary issue. He is also set to meet his Assamese counterpart to iron out the issue but he told ThePrint that with the blame game going on, he doesn’t see the volatile situation easing in the near future.
Speaking to ThePrint, Mizoram Information Minister Pu Lalruatkima said, “The Mizoram government complains to the home ministry from time to time, but no concrete action was initiated.”
He added, “Last year when Assam forced the economic blockade for one month, we complained, wrote letters but after a month of perusal with Centre, Assam lifted the blockade and the situation normalised. Last week, the chief minister complained about Assam’s behaviour, but soon after the meeting, Assam Police intruded into our territory.”
The two states have a different interpretation of their interstate boundary.
While Mizoram believes that its border lies along the Inner Line Permit map drawn up in 1875 to protect the tribals, Assam believes the district demarcation done in 1930 decides the boundary.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leads the Assam government while it is in an alliance with Mizo National Front in Mizoram.
After the latest clash, the provocation has not died down yet with the Assam CM announcing to deploy three commando battalions to guard Karimganj, Cachar and Hailakandi at the interstate boundary with Mizoram. Sarma has also said that Assam could approach the Supreme Court over the issue.