Police in Mizoram have booked Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and several other officials of his state in connection with the deadly violence at a disputed border point between the two northeastern neighbours less than a week ago.
Sarma, four senior officials of Assam Police and two administrative officials have been booked for attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy, among other charges, Mizoram Inspector General of Police (Headquarters) John Neihlaia told news agency PTI.
Both states blame each other for the unprecedented violence that erupted on 26 July at the controversial point between Cachar (Assam) and Kolasib (Mizoram). Six Assam Police personnel were killed, apparently due to firing by Mizoram Police. The incident stemmed from a decades-old border dispute and the states' different perceptions of the interstate boundary.
The Centre has stepped in to control the situation, asked police forces of both states to stand down at the border, and increased the deployment of paramilitary forces in trouble-struck areas.
But the fresh action by Mizoram Police underscores the tensions casting a long shadow on relations between the two states who find themselves stuck in a quagmire. Assam has advised its people not to travel to Mizoram in such a charged atmosphere.
Four senior officials of Assam Police, booked along with the CM, are Inspector General Anurag Aggarwal, Cachar Deputy Inspector General Devojyoti Mukherjee, Cachar Superintendent of Police Cahndrakant Nimbalkar, and officer in-charge of Dholai police station Sahab Uddin.
Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli and Cachar Divisional Forest Officer Sunnydeo Chaudhary have also been booked in the first information report (FIR) filed in Vairengte Police Station (Kolasib).
The four policemen and two district officials have been called for questioning on Sunday, Mizoram Police's Neihlaia told PTI. He also said cases had been filed against over 200 unidentified Assam Police personnel.
The development comes hours after legislators cutting across party lines in Assam's Barak Valley, which comprises Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj, met in Silchar and agreed to initiate legal action against the Kolasib Superintendent of Police for the 26 July incident.
Assam says there's more to the recent flare-up than the border dispute. The state maintains Assam’s crackdown on narcotics has unnerved drug lords, who it says are politically connected in Mizoram.
There have been reports that Assam summoned six officials of Kolasib district for questioning two days after the firing incident. They are Kolasib Deputy Commissioner H Lalthlangliana, Superintendent of Police (SP) Vanlalfaka Ralte, Additional SP David JB, Vairengte Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil) C Lalrempuia, 1st Indian Reserve Battalion Additional SP Bruce Kibby and Vairengte Sub-divisional Police Officer Thartea Hrangchal.
According to Assam, the drug cartel is fomenting trouble in border areas and could be behind the gathering of mobs at the disputed point on the day of firing. It says a drug smuggling route cuts through a reserved forest at the Cachar-Kolasib border, stressing that it has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against the cartels.
Mizoram says a 200-member Assam Police team entered its land on the day of the incident and showed aggression, forcing Mizoram Police to fire back.