New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday attacked Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the violence at the Assam-Mizoram border, alleging that he has "failed" the country by "sowing hatred and distrust" into the lives of people and India is now reaping its "dreadful consequences".
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its allies, rules all the eight states of the Northeast and the suppurating tension between the two states may cast a shadow over its plans to further consolidate its hold on the region.
According to officials, at least five Assam Police personnel were killed while defending the "constitutional boundary" of the state with Mizoram and more than 60 people injured, including an SP, as the festering border dispute between the two Northeastern states erupted into a bloody conflict on Monday.
"Heartfelt condolences to the families of those who've been killed. I hope the injured recover soon," Gandhi tweeted, tagging a purported video of the violence.
"HM has failed the country yet again by sowing hatred and distrust into the lives of people. India is now reaping its dreadful consequences," the former Congress chief said.
In a statement on Monday, the Assam government alleged that the Mizoram Police opened fire on its officials and civilians from two dominating high features with automatic weapons, including light machine guns (LMGs).
However, Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana claimed that the state police responded "spontaneously by firing back" at Assam Police after its 200 personnel forcibly crossed a duty post manned by CRPF personnel and indulged in arson and firing and assaulted unarmed people.
Later, Shah spoke to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga and urged them to ensure peace along the disputed border and find an amicable settlement.
Assam's Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi share a 164-km border with Mizoram's three districts of Aizawl, Kolasib and Mamit.
Following a territorial dispute, there were clashes along the inter-state border in August 2020 and February this year.
Death of democracy: TMC
In Kolkata, expressing shock over the Assam-Mizoram inter-state border clash that has claimed the lives of at least five policemen and injured 60 others, senior Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee on Tuesday said that such unremitting incidents under the BJP's watch have invited the death of democracy in India.
"Shocked & Stunned to hear about the ruthless violence that has transpired at the #AssamMizoramBorder. My condolences to the bereaved families. Such unremitting incidents under @BJP4India's watch have invited the death of democracy in our nation," the TMC national secretary tweeted.
5 Assam Cops Killed, 60 Injured
The border clashes came two days after Amit Shah held talks with the chief ministers of eight Northeastern states and underscored the need to resolve lingering border disputes.
The long-standing dispute between Assam and Mizoram has its origin in a notification of 1875 issued during the British era that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
Mizoram insists the inter-state boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, a corollary to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873. Mizoram leaders have been arguing against the demarcation notified in 1933 claiming Mizo society was not consulted, while Assam wants that notification to be enforced.
Tension reportedly flared up again on Sunday when the huts of eight Mizo farmers were allegedly set ablaze near Aitlang stream in the trouble-torn area, DIG (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte, told PTI. All these huts belonged to farmers from Vairengte, the village closest to the Assam border, and were uninhabited.
Even as incidents of stone-pelting and clashes were on, Himanta Biswa Sarma spoke to his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga on Monday and proposed a visit to Aizawl to hammer out a solution.
The two chief ministers, however, soon got embroiled in a face-off on Twitter.
"I have just spoken to Hon'ble Chief Minister @ZoramthangaCM ji. I have reiterated that Assam will maintain status quo and peace between the borders of our state. I have expressed my willingness to visit Aizawl and discuss these issues if need be," Sarma tweeted.
The Mizoram-Assam border has been tense since June when Assam Police allegedly took control of an area known as 'Aitlang hnar', about 5 km from Vairengte, accusing the neighbouring state of encroaching its territory.