Aizawl, Aug 1: Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana on Saturday said that the recent boundary clash with Assam was not related to drug trafficking or cattle trade and denied the involvement of 'non-state actors' in the incident.
He instead asserted that the clash was an "unavoidable countermeasure" to protect the territorial integrity and ancestral land of the Mizos, which was threatened several times over decades by "aggression and encroachment from Assam".
"Drug trafficking and cattle trade have nothing to do with the boundary clash, and non-state actors weren't involved in the incident. How can a responsible government be hand-in-glove with or be influenced by non-state actors?" the home minister told PTI. Though certain student bodies had earlier clashed with the Assam Police over the border dispute, no such organisation was involved in the recent incident, he said. Six Assam Police personnel and one civilian have been killed, and scores of people were injured in an inter-state border clash between Assam and Mizoram on July 26. The Mizoram home minister, however, said there is no denying the fact that some civilians from Vairengte were indeed present during the clash but so were commoners from Assam.
"Despite maximum restrain at first, our men were compelled to resort to countermeasures when forces from the neighbouring state crossed over into our territory, overran our outpost and tried to set up camps, besides lobbing grenades, tear gas shells and even opening fire on our personnel and protesting civilians," he said, adding the Mizoram Police responded in self-defence and to protect the civilians.
"It was very unfortunate that some people lost their lives and several others sustained injuries in the clash," Lalchamliana said.
He asserted that Mizoram was much ahead of Assam in launching a crackdown on drug trafficking. The home minister said that the state government along with civil society organisations and churches have made massive efforts to curb drug smuggling from Assam and neighbouring countries for decades. He said that a plethora of drugs, including heroin, are smuggled from Assam and several drug peddlers from the neighbouring state have been arrested in the past. Lalchamliana said that Mizoram hardly buys cattle for consumption from Assam as its demand is met from the eastern part of the state.
He said that drug smuggling is a global problem, which can be curbed by joint efforts between states. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on July 27 said in Silchar that decisions taken by his government in the last few months have angered "non-state vested actors". He said that the Assam government had hit the drug route through Mizoram and Manipur, and blocked attempts made by people entering India illegally from Myanmar to settle in Dima Hasao district. Sarma said that the tabling of the Assam Cattle Protection Bill in the assembly has created apprehensions, although it was clarified that transportation to other northeastern states won't be affected provided the transporters have valid permits.
Mizoram's largest civil society organisation, the Central Young Mizo Association, had on Friday stated that Assam's allegations that drug trafficking and cattle trade might be reasons behind the clash are "baseless" and "an attempt to tarnish Mizoram's image". It said that there has never been any discussion to settle Myanmar refugees in Assam and they have all taken shelter in Mizoram. State Excise and Narcotics Commissioner Ngurchungnunga Sailo said that 1,680 people have died in Mizoram due to drug abuse from 1984 till July 30 this year and the main killer drug, that claimed 1,116 lives, was spasmo proxyvon which came entirely from Assam.
The state government claimed that at least 395 people from Assam have been arrested in drug-related cases in Mizoram in the last 10 years. Excise and Narcotics Department spokesperson Peter Zohmingthanga said that most of the Assam residents had acted as "middle men" for smuggling heroin from Myanmar. He said that drug seizures are frequent in the state due to the alertness of the agencies, and there is no drug mafia in the state although there are active peddlers.
State government data said that at least 1,981 people have been arrested in drug-related cases from 2018 to June, 2021, of whom a majority are people from Mizoram, followed by Myanmar and Assam residents.