A powerful organisation in Mizoram has demanded an apology from Assam Rifles for allegedly molesting two women at a border village on Independence Day and violating COVID-19 safety protocols.
The country’s oldest paramilitary force, however, has denied the allegations.
The central committee of the Young Mizo Association, which has 4.5 lakh members, has warned of “stringent action” against Assam Rifles if it does not apologise before the end of this month, it said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The YMA alleged that Assam Rifles personnel had molested two women at Sesih village in Champhai district along the India-Myanmar border on August 15.
“The women were molested by the Assam Rifles personnel guarding the international border while they on their way back from agricultural fields,” a YMA leader said.
The body also accused Assam Rifles of refusing to undergo mandatory medical screening, thus violating COVID-19 protocols laid down by the state government.
Chief Minister Zoramthanga had held a meeting with the YMA leaders on Saturday over the alleged “misbehaviour” by Assam Rifles personnel, an official said.
It was decided that the state government and the YMA will send separate letters to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on the “unbecoming nature of the Assam Rifles” in allegedly disrespecting the safety protocols and also skipping the Independence Day celebrations.
The state Home Department had on August 19 written to the DIG of sector 23 of Assam Rifles, alleging that 15 personnel of its 46 Battalion had forced their entry to Mizoram on August 18 without complying with mandatory screening procedures.
It alleged that 25 personnel were sent from Aizawl to the Vairengte border check-gate to “intimidate” the civil administration and assist the 15 jawans in their forced entry.
The Assam Rifles personnel have breached the Mizoram (Containment and Prevention of COVID-19) Ordinance, 2020, under which no citizen, including security personnel, can enter the state without prior permission from the administration, in order to check the spread of the disease, a Home Department official said.
Assam Rifles has denied the allegations and said that the Mizoram government has violated MHA directions by restricting the inter-state movement of security personnel. Colonel Viplav Tripathi, 46 Assam Rifles commandant, claimed that the 15 personnel, who had come from Assam’s Silchar, had insisted that the officials conduct rapid antigen
“Initially, the officials agreed to conduct rapid antigen tests but later refused, saying they did not have movement permit to which the personnel told them that they did not require separate movement permits as security personnel have been exempted by the Centre,” he told PTI.
Colonel Viplav Tripathi said that 25 Assam Rifles personnel, including a doctor, were sent to Vairengte on that day to receive their colleagues and to avoid any medical exigency on the way.
Assam Rifles, in a reply to the Mizoram HomDepartment on August 20, had said that the state government order contradicted the MHA guidelines.
Rubbishing claims that Assam Rifles was the second-highest spreader of COVID-19 in the state as “baseless”, it also blamed the Mizoram government for “tarnishing” the image of the force.
Assam Rifles denied allegations that its personnel had molested the two women at Sesih village or that the force had skipped the Independence Day celebrations.
“If there is any such report, we would like to know the name or names of the accused personnel so that at least the women can identify them or we can brief the media about it,” an Assam Rifles officer said.
The Assam Rifles personnel were present during the Independence Day celebration and saluted the national flag when Chief Minister Zoramthanga unfurled it, he added.