The Assam Rifles has accused the Mizoram government of violating MHA directions by denying entry to military and paramilitary forces into the state.
The allegation came days after a section of media reported that 15 personnel of Assam Rifles forced their way through border check gate at Vairengte on the Mizoram-Assam border by allegedly refusing to comply with the entry and screening protocol in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
The Assam Rifles in a statement said that the denial of armed forces by Mizoram government to enter the state has clearly violated the directions of MHA, which has serious implications for the national security and is a cause of grave concern.
“The restrictions imposed by the state government on the operational movement of Assam Rifles is seriously hampering the smooth functioning of the force impacting the primary task of border guarding,” the statement said.
The statement claimed that Assam Rifles has not caused any community spread in the state and has been managing its Covid-19 patients at its own quarantine Centre at Zokhawsang near Aizawl.
“The Assam Rifles personnel have not caused any burden on the state government,” it said.
The statement further said that the state government had been approached several times and requested to pass suitable instructions at Vairangte entry gate and all other entry points to allow movement of Armed Forces unobstructed.
“Assam Rifles has always assured the state government that all personnel of Assam Rifles entering the state will be put through the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine protocols and also has never denied undergoing any medical test by state medical authorities,” the state said.
It added that Assam Rifles personnel were not asked to undergo any medical test at Vairengte on August 18.
Meanwhile, the state home department wrote to Brigadier Vinod S, the DIG of 23 sector Assam Rifles informing him about Assam Rifles personnel crossing the state border without complying to medical screening at the check gate and urged the DIG not to repeat such rogue act by the personnel at a time when the state is struggling to cope with the rising Covid-19 cases in the state.
The letter said that on August 18, at least 15 AR personnel from 46 Battalion forced their way through the border gate allegedly refusing to comply with the entry and medical screening protocol set up by the state government to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The letter also said that 25 armed personnel were deployed from Aizawl to Vairengte on the same day in an apparently planned move to intimidate the civil administration and assist the 15 personnel in the forced entry at Vairengte.
“Despite various regulations, orders, guidelines and instructions issued by the state government and repeated appeals to curtail the avoidable inter-statement movement of troops, the AR has been less cooperative,” the letter said, adding that entry of as many as 1,124 personnel was facilitated from May to 10 August and 10 per cent of them have tested positive for Covid-19,” the letter said.
It further said that the act of willful disregard of safety protocol on the part of Assam Rifles has seriously compromised the safety of the people and negated the sincere efforts of the state government as well as the people of Mizoram to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“It is unfortunate that the aforementioned rogue behaviour by the Assam Rifles has occurred at a time when the state is struggling to cope with the high rate of increase of COVID-19 cases and to contain community spread, and hence, is extremely cautious about incoming persons, residents as well as non-residents. Moreover, statistics show that Assam Rifles is the second highest contributor to the COVID-19 tally of the State among the military and paramilitary forces stationed in the state,” the statement added.
The department in a separate statement also said that chief minister Zoramthanga had earlier appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to temporarily withhold inter-state movement of all paramilitary personnel during August to contain further spread of COVID-19 after the majority of the Covid-19 cases in the state were found among personnel of security forces.
Paramilitary forces contributed sizeable chunk to Covid-19 cases in Mizoram.
According to the health department, at least 339 security personnel have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, which accounted for 38.83 per cent of the total 873 Covid-19 cases.
Of the 339 security personnel, 101 belonged to Assam Rifles, 230 to BSF and 4 each of CRPF and Indian Army, it said.
Besides, at least 32 personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also tested positive for Covid-19 and all of them have already recovered, the department said.