Assam man dies in custody in Mizoram, tension escalates amid border standoff

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(Eds: Change in para 8) Guwahati/Aizawl, Nov 2 (PTI) A man from Assam's Cachar district died in custody in Mizoram on Monday, escalating the tension between the two Northeastern states amid a border standoff.

Mizoram's Kolasib district Superintendent of Police Vanlalfaka Ralte told PTI that Intazul Laskar (45), a well- known drug peddler, was apprehended on Sunday evening when he crossed the inter-state border to deliver a consignment and later died at a health facility.

However, an Assam Police official said that he had gone missing from a forest area where he went to collect wood and a case was registered at the Dholai police station.

'This morning, we got confirmation from police of Kolasib district in Mizoram that he is in their custody.

However, by the afternoon, we were told that he expired,' the official said.

Ralte claimed that Intazul went to Vairengte to deliver a drug consignment when he was apprehended by volunteers of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) and handed over to officials of the state Excise and Narcotics department who arrested him.

He sustained minor injuries in his ankle while attempting to run away from the volunteers, the officer said He was admitted to the Vairengte Community Health Centre as officials found him physically weak, Ralte said.

He died at 10.20 am on Monday, a Mizoram official said.

The Assam Police official pointed fingers at Mizoram over the incident and alleged that it was a 'clear case of custodial death'.

'The Mizoram Police has intimated us that they are proceeding as per the NHRC guidelines related to custodial death,' he said.

The Mizoram Police officer claimed that no person laid hands upon him at the time of his arrest and the incident has no connection with the present border standoff.

He was booked under relevant sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 after the arrest, another official in Mizoram said.

Later, a case of unnatural death was registered at the Vairengte police station, he said.

Cachar SP Bhanwar Lal Meena wrote to Ralte, urging him to investigate the matter.

When contacted, Meena declined to comment on the incident, but said, 'Our focus is to maintain the law and order situation. We have increased our vigil in the area.' The Liaison Officer of Mizoram House at Silchar in Cachar, Saizikpuii, said that she has appealed to the Mizos living in the Barak valley city to take shelter at the House as a 'precautionary measure'.

'Already, 11 oil tankers and six LPG trucks stranded in Silchar due to the road blockade are taking shelter at the Mizoram House. The Cachar district administration has provided additional three personnel from the CRPF and six men from Assam Police apart from the existing four CRPF jawans,' she said.

Tension has been prevailing along the border since October 17 after miscreants allegedly damaged 18 temporary huts and three semi-urban dwelling units, following which several rounds of talks were held between officials of Assam, Mizoram and the central government.

The blockade on National Highway-306, the lifeline of Mizoram, entered the sixth day on Monday amid the tension, crippling supply of essential commodities, officials in Aizawl said. TR/CORR SOM SOM