Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Willing To Get Arrested If It Helps Solve Border Crisis: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

Willing To Get Arrested If It Helps Solve Border Crisis: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

‘If I am served a summon (by the Mizoram Police) , I will undertake a padyatra from Silchar to Vairengte and join the probe,’ Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said

Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma interacts with media persons after visiting police personnel injured in a clash at Assam-Mizoram border, at Silchar Medical College & Hospital. PTI

Amid tensions escalating along the Assam-Mizoram border, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said that he is willing to get arrested by the Mizoram Police if it helps resolve the crisis between the neighbouring states.

His statements come in the backdrop of skirmishes between the Assam and Mizoram police, which escalated last week, when six Assam Police personnel and one civilian were killed during clashes at Lailapur in Cachar district.

Amid these developments, Sarma on Sunday said that if the Mizoram police summon him, he will not seek bail and instead go on a ‘padyatra’ to join the probe. "If I am served a summon, I will go on a `padyatra’ (journey to galvanise opinion) from Silchar to Vairengte (the town where Assam officials have been summoned) and join the probe. If they (Mizoram Police) arrest me and that (helps) bring the situation to normal, I am ready for that. I will not seek bail from Gauhati High Court," Sarma said.

Sarma’s statement came after Mizoram chief secretary said earlier in the day that the state’s chief minister had frowned on charges of “attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy” levelled against his Assam counterpart and indicated these are likely to be withdrawn.

Mizoram’s police had also filed first information reports against six Assam police officers over the clash. Sarma however said he will protect the officers and will not “allow them to be investigated by Mizoram police for an incident which occurred in Assam.”

Assam too in a tit-for-tat move has summoned Mizoram Rajya Sabha MP K Vanlalvena and six others Mizoram officials, including Kolasib deputy commissioner H Lalthlangliana and superintendent of police Vanlalfaka Ralte for interrogation at Dholai on Monday.

Earlier in the day Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke telephonically with both the chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram in a bid to bring down tensions between the two states.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga tweeted after the phone call, “As per telephonic discussion with Union Home Minister and Assam Chief Minister, we agreed to resolve the Mizoram-Assam border issue amicably through meaningful dialogue.”

He also urged the people of Mizoram to refrain from posting "sensitive messages and make judicious use of social media platform.”

However, Mizoram Health Minister R Lalthangliana soon afterwards claimed that medical supplies, including COVID-19 test kits, were being blocked from entering the state from Assam. A claim which was hotly refuted by Assam officials who contended that no blockade had been imposed.

Despite an attempt by Shah to resolve a raft of long-standing border disuptes between Assam and its neighbours earlier this month, at least six Assam Police personnel and one civilian were killed and more than 50 people injured, including the police chief of the district of Cachar, in a fire-fight between the police of the two states on a disputed stretch of their boundary, near Dholai in Cachar district.

A subsequent agreement was hammered out on Wednesday night, by the Union home ministry to maintain calm on the border and allow a neutral central police force to act as peace-keepers. Nevertheless, the two states have continued to trade charges of reinforcing police pickets and of refusing to honour the agreement which calls for pulling back forces from the border.

Assamese local organisations which had soon after the clash announced an economic blockade of Mizoram have since lifted their `blokade’, but truckers afraid of possible violence have opted to either park their vehicles near the border in Cachar district’s Dholai or to circumvent the troubled boundary by taking a longer route through Tripura.

Assam government on Thursday had also issued an unprecedented travel advisory asking people not to travel to Mizoram and advised people from the state working or staying there to “exercise utmost caution.”

Tension along the border with Mizoram in Cachar and Hailakandi districts of Assam have been escalating since October 2020 with frequent incidents of burning of houses and encroachment of land.

The two states share a 164.6-km border between Assam's Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, and Mizoram’s Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts.

Both states have differing interpretations of their territorial border. While Mizoram believes that its border lies along an ‘inner line’ drawn up in 1875 to protect tribals from outside influence, Assam goes by a district demarcation done in the 1930s.

(With PTI inputs)