The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed along the Mizoram-Assam border on Tuesday received a barrage of criticism from different quarters for allegedly failing to carry out its “responsibility” as a neutral force to maintain peace and prevent police personnel and civilians from Assam to overrun security forces camps inside Mizoram on Monday.
The criticism came a day after the violent clash and exchange of firing between Mizoram and Assam forces over a decade-old boundary dispute on the outskirts of Vairengte in Kolasib district and near Lailapur in Assam that led to the death of at least five cops from Assam.
Central paramilitary forces have been deployed along the Mizoram-Assam border by the Central government to defuse tension and maintain peace after a border standoff in August last year.
While the CRPF are deployed on the Mizoram side, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) are camped on the Assam side in Lailapur as “neutral forces” to maintain peace in the border areas.
Mizoram Information and Public Relations minister Lalruatkima alleged that both the paramilitary forces did not put restrain on and prevent armed police personnel and civilians from Assam from intruding into Mizoram territory despite the vulnerability of the situation, which could turn violent at any time.
He alleged that unarmed Mizoram police officers were denied protection by CRPF personnel when they rushed to the CRPF base when the firing took place between two state forces on Monday.
“The bloody clash could have been averted had CRPF personnel prevented Assam police from entering Mizoram territory and put restrain on them,” Lalruatkima, who is currently camping at Vairengte, said.
Lalrinsanga Ralte, an MLA of Serlui constituency under which falls Vairengte, also accused CRPF jawans of backing armed police personnel and civilians from Assam in entering Mizoram territory.
He alleged that Assam police came fully armed, took over the CRPF camp and forcefully driven off around 15 personnel of Mizoram police from their duty post located a few meters from the CRPF camp on the outskirt of Vairengte.
The Assam police then clashed with residents of Vairengte, who tried to prevent them from setting up a tent at Mizoram territory, Ralte alleged.
The MLA said that the people of Mizoram have no more faith in the paramilitary force as far as maintaining neutrality and restoring peace in the border areas are concerned.
Vairengte joint village council chairman R. Lalfamkima also blamed the CRPF for allegedly failing to carry out their responsibility to defuse tensions.
He alleged that the Assam police accompanied by civilians came with arms and also brought ambulances.
They crossed past CRPF camp and forcefully drove out Mizoram police from their duty post.
“They (Assam police) clashed with civilians from Assam, fired tear gas, mob bomb and later live community towards civilians and Mizoram forces at a time when the discussion was going on between top cops of the two states,” Lalfamkima, who present at the incident site on Monday, said.
He alleged that the CRPF personnel remained a silent spectator to the scene and did nothing to stop the Assam team from proceeding further and avert clashes.
He blamed Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma as responsible for the violent clash and death of five policemen.
Vairengte joint YMA president Zalawta also blamed police personnel and civilians from Assam for crossing two paramilitary forces camps and state policy duty post on the inter-state border, which according to him was the main reason for the violent clashes.
He claimed that the people of Mizoram never crossed the SSB camps near Lailapur in Assam.
Officials of CRPF were not available for comment.
Meanwhile, the Centre has directed the Mizoram government to shift the CRPF camp to the place where Mizoram police are now camping.
Both the CRPF and Mizoram police duty camps are located in close proximity near Vairengte.
Lalfamkima said that the people of Vairengte have strongly opposed the Centre’s decision to shift the CRPF jawans to Mizoram police camp as they could not repose faith in the jawans for their safety.
He further alleged tear gas canisters and grenades were launched at Mizoram Police followed by firing from Assam side, which compelled the Mizoram police to retaliate.
Assam government said that Mizoram police opened fire on the Assam officials and civilians while Mizoram Kolasib SP was holding talks with Assam officials on Monday.
At least five cops from Assam were killed and more than 50 injured in the firing between Mizoram and Assam forces that lasted about 47 minutes on Monday.