Six police killed in border battle between rival Indian states

GUWAHATI (AFP) - The chief minister from the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on Monday (July 26) accused police from a rival state of killing six of his security forces in a rare internal border clash.

The leaders of Assam and neighbouring Mizoram, which have been wrangling over their border for decades, blamed each other for the deadly violence.

Tensions have been building between the two states since last month when officials in Mizoram alleged that Assam police had taken over a border post.

Monday's clash took place near the town of Vairengte.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Twitter that six Assam policemen had "sacrificed their lives while defending constitutional boundary of our state".

His Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga did not confirm the deaths but said in a statement that shots were fired after a 200-strong police force from Assam "forcibly crossed" a duty post.

Mr Zoramthanga, who uses only one name, also claimed that the Assam police had damaged vehicles and assaulted unarmed civilians, including a tourist couple.

He said Assam police had opened fire at their Mizoram counterparts, who fired back.

Both ministers staged a social media campaign to make their cases, sharing videos showing civilians armed with batons clashing with police, cars and vans overturned, and a couple in a car with broken windows and windscreen.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah sought to end the tensions that built up last month and the Indian media said he called the two ministers again on Monday to try to end the violence.

Mizoram was part of Assam until 1972 when it was split up. Mizoram became a state in its own right in 1986.

Mizoram says the area claimed by Assam has been used by its people for more than 100 years, but the Assamese insist that a large chunk of land has been forcibly seized.

Both states are ruled by regional parties allied with India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The far-flung and resource-rich north-eastern region has been a hotbed of ethnic tensions since India's independence in 1947.

Dozens of tribal groups and guerilla armies have demanded greater autonomy or independence from India.

Borders between the seven states in the region are not clearly demarcated, leading to regular disputes over land and assets.