On 26 July, 2021 Assam Police stormed into Vairengte, a town in Kolasib District in Mizoram. More than 100 police personnels from Assam entered Vairengte and caused havoc in the Mizo town. The Assam Police made attempts to take down the Mizoram Police camp recently constructed by the Mizoram government. The police force were confronted by the unarmed local residents of Vairengte which later resulted in a violent clash after the Assam police opened fire at the unarmed civilians.
The unfortunate incident took place less than two days after Amit Shah, Home Minister met with the chief ministers of North East states in Shillong, Meghalaya to resolve the interstate state boundary issues. The incident took a violent turn when Assam Police refused to retreat and later received order from CM Himanta Biswa Sarma to open fire.
What really happened
The chain of incident started with the arrival of 200 armed police personnels from Assam Police at the autorickshaw stand in Vairengte at around 11:30 AM. The local residents of Vairengte tried to ward off the Assam Police from making further advancement into the village. The Assam Police forcibly closed and occupied the duty post of the CRPF which further resulted into a violent clash between the police and the unarmed civilians.
Assam Police used tear gas shells and grenades against the unarmed civilians as a result of which several men, including the Vice President of the Vairengte Village Council suffered injury and were taken to the hospital. The Assam Police also completely wrecked the car of a travelling Mizo couple who happened to pass by during the clash. The two passengers suffered severe physical injury and were unable to continue their journey.
Firing order given by Assam CM
It was later in the afternoon at around 4:00PM when Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma gave the firing order to the Assam Police force who shocked the unarmed crowd by firing several shots. The civilians present were teenagers, old women, young and old men who carried only sticks and pipes to defend themselves. Soon after this, the Mizoram police returned fire to provide cover and defense for the unarmed civilians.
The initial firing opened by the Assam Police resulted in an unfortunate incident where 5 police personnels from Assam lost their lives. The MLAs from Assam blamed the political miscalculation and poor decision making of CM Himanta Biswas which led to the lost of precious lives. Lalchamliana, the Home Minister of Mizoram also expressed his condolence for the bereaved families and added that such unfortunate deaths could have been avoided if Assam had maintained a diplomatic stance in the border issue.
As a reaction to CM Himanta's tweet acusing Mizoram of opening fire, the netizens of Mizoram have taken social media by storm with the hashtag #assamshotfirst. In a recent media report, Assam has admitted to firing the first shot.
Vairengte: a constitutionally recognized village of Mizoram
Vairengte is a Mizo occupied town in Kolasib district in Mizoram which is located about 130 kilometres from Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram. The town, located right next to Lalilapur in Cachar district,serves as a significant trade centre between the two states. It is the major entry point for import and export trading for the state of Mizoram. Due to its location near the Assam- Mizoram border, the residents of Vairengte have witnessed many intrusions and other incidents related to territorial conflict in the past. The unarmed residents of Vairengte who faced the Assam Police in yesterday's violent clash comprises not only of grown men but of young teenage boys and old women.
Border issue with Assam: The common nightmare of North East States
Assam has had a long history of border conflicts and disputes with almost all the neighbouring states in the North East. Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have made several attempts in the past to reach peaceful settlements with Assam.
Assam also has serious border clashes with Nagaland dating back to the 1960s which reached its height in 1985 in relation to the strips of land in Wokha, Nagaland. In 2007, a violent clash broke out between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam regarding the interstate broders which still remains unresolved.
On 26 July, 2021, around the same time when violence broke out at Vairengte, minor clashes broke out in the Kiling Longkhuli area of the Assam- Meghalaya border. The clash started when Assam police tried to uproot electric poles erected by the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited. According to reports, Mawhati MDC, Charles Marngar was manhandled by the assam Police while trying to stop them from pulling down the poles.
After long years of clash and conflict, the border dispute still seems to disrupt any hope of peace in the North East region of India.