Assam-Mizoram: At least five Indian police officers have been killed in a shootout between two provincial police.
Officials in both cases, including the prime minister, have been accused of inciting violence.
The shooting follows intense months of tensions over a long-running border dispute between the two provinces.
Assam shares a 164km border (approximately 101 miles) with Mizoram, and both countries oppose its design.
Both sides often jump over it, sometimes violently. But it was the first time that provincial police had fired at each other. Police killed in the attack were from Assam.
The provincial government has been trying to resolve peace between the provinces since 1994 but has failed.
On Monday, Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah reportedly spoke to the prime ministers of Assam and Mizoram – Himanta Biswa Sarma and Zoramthanga – urging them to ensure peace on the opposing border by finding a “solution” to the problem.
Now, what’s the problem?
Mizoram and Assam, along with five other regions, are located in northeastern India, stretching from the snow-covered Himalayas under Tibet to the plains of Bangladesh, and traversing the forests of Myanmar (Burma) to the east.
Under colonial rule, the Lushai Hills, as Mizoram was then known, were part of Assam. The region only gained recognition in 1972 – almost three decades after India’s independence – when it became an isolated part of the state. In 1987, it became a complete state.
Three districts in Assam – Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj – share a 164km long border with three Mizoram districts.
The forested area is disputed in many areas, where both Assam and Mizoram are accused of burglary of their land.
The first line broke out in 1994, leading to a series of speeches that were improved by the provincial government. But the ongoing conflict has continued.
The situation escalated to an unprecedented level in October 2020 when residents of Assam and Mizoram clashed twice a week. At least eight people were injured as angry residents set fire to huts and small shops on both sides.
At the heart of the issue was Assam’s “eviction campaign” on the disputed border – state officials reportedly set fire to a farmhouse and crops in the area. The Mizoram government has responded by deploying troops in areas Assam claims are part of its territory.
Citizens from both provinces also blocked highways, bringing in all roads for about three weeks until the provincial government intervened to ease tensions.
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What happened on Monday?
The situation escalated after clashes broke out between police on both sides of the border, Lailapur, according to local reports.
Assam’s prime minister, Mr Sarma, announced on Twitter that members of the state police had been killed by militants in Mizoram “while defending the constitutional border”.
Assam police also suspect that the “criminals” of Mizoram pelted them with stones and attacked government officials.
But authorities in Mizoram denied this.
The state’s Home Affairs Minister, Lalchamliana, said Mizoram police had responded “with a gunshot wound” to Assam police officers after they “forcibly” escaped a post by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The provincial government has used the CRPF as a “neutral party” on the opposing border.
Meanwhile, prime ministers Zoramthanga and Mr Sarma have clashed on Twitter, accusing each other of violence and seeking government intervention.
Both prime ministers had attended a meeting hosted by Mr Shah in Shillong on Saturday.