In the recent, the government of Mizoram and the Assam Rifles have indulged in series of the standoff with issues related to “violating” Covid-19 protocols by the force troopers, alleged molestation by an Assam Rifle jawan and the heated exchange of letters regarding the Independence Day celebration.
The oldest paramilitary force—with three battalions posted in Mizoram—which guards the 512-km border with Myanmar has come under argument on allegedly dealing with the civil administration with “contempt”.
Assam Rifles is also blamed on their “failed stand” to recognise that Armed Force (Special Powers) Act is no longer in force in Mizoram.
Earlier, the Mizoram government wrote letters to the Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and accused Assam Rifles of “boycott” of Independence Day celebrations and alleged violation of Covid-19 safety protocols.
“We are of the firm view that no issue between Assam Rifles and the state administration is so serious that it cannot be resolved through discussions with open minds,” one of the letters read.
However, the powerful Mizo group, Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) earlier warned Assam Rifles of stringent action and also sought an apology from the force regarding the current stand-off with the state government.
Talking to Headline8 over the phone, the CYMA General Secretary Prof. Lalnuntluanga said, “We sought an apology from the Assam Rifles on the disrespect and harassment. They have tendered an apology to us but we have to assess it.”
“We had extended the deadline to September 5th in the view of Director General Assam Rifle (DGAR) visiting Mizoram. Meanwhile, they have sent an apology letter to us,” he added.
Last week, the DGAR Lt. General Sukhdeep Sangwan met Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga over the stand-off, however, no solution to the issue was reported to the media.
Meanwhile, Mizoram chief secretary refused to give comments on the recent meeting.
A source at his office, who wished not to be named said, “The meeting concluded with many compromises such as the state government asking the Assam Rifles to shift their base from Aizwal.”
“Mostly the state government was in the higher stand in the meeting. The issue seems to be resolved but the AR jawans have the same viewpoint to Mizo people as they have in other northeastern states. That’s an issue with the state government and the AR since long,” he said.
AFSPA is withdrawn long back
Assam Rifles troopers are posted in Northeast to guard the Indo-Myanmar border and in the counter-insurgency operations.
“We respect Assam Rifles but in recent years, the force is seen with varied issues such as hurting the sentiment of the Mizo people. We need to resolve it. They often forget that Mizoram is a peaceful state and the AFSPA is withdrawn long back,” said a member of CYMA.
However, the Assam Rifles earlier said, “The Mizoram government’s denial of entry to armed forces into the state violates the directions of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which has serious implication for national security and is a cause of grave concern. It is not acceptable as the people of Mizoram fear Myanmarese nationals will cross over and spread the virus of COVID-19.”
The paramilitary force amounts to 45 per cent of Covid-19 positive cases in the state and the Mizo people have blamed the force for being the spreader of the pandemic in the state.
In the view of the accusation, the Assam Rifles said, “We have not caused any community spread of COVID-19 in the state and has been managing our patients at our quarantine centre. It has not also caused any burden or dependency on the state government.”
“However, there has been a continuous violation/dilution of orders of the MHA by the state government by restricting the entry of armed forces into the state which is not happening in any other part of the country,” it added.
Earlier, the force allegedly boycotted the state Independence Day celebration over the Warrant of Precedence (WoP) which deals with the order of seating at any government function. A letter sent by the local AR unit mentioned, “a dishonour to the appointment and rank held by the senior-most army officer in the state”.
However, an official with the force denied the allegation and said that the force took part in the parade with a contingent.
What’s the solution?
“We are peace-loving citizens and Assam Rifles should understand that the AFSPA no longer exists. When they enter Mizoram, they should come with the mindset that AFSPA is withdrawn here. They behave in the same way as they behave in other northeast states,” expressed Lalthathanga, a professor from Mizoram.
The current stand-off between the state government and Assam Rifles have reached a final resolution with compromises and settlements but time-and-again, Mizo people want the oldest paramilitary force to enter the state with a different mindset.
“They [AR] are deployed across NE where the draconian AFSFA is currently on force. They think they can treat us [Mizo people] with the same behaviour. They should respect the state government and the people. We are a peace-loving citizen,” said Lalrozama, a student from Aizwal.