An official delegation of Meghalaya’s cabinet ministers is meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the national capital today, to inform him of the recent firing incident near the border with Assam that left six people dead.
Reportedly, the delegation will request that the Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Investigation Agency lead the investigation regarding the incident.
On Tuesday, after forest guards from Assam intercepted a truck allegedly filled with illegally felled timber, violence broke out at the state border with Meghalaya. In an alleged clash between Meghalaya villagers and a contingent of Assam Police and forest guards, six people were killed and several others were injured. The clash allegedly took place near Mukroh village in the West Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, bordering West Karbi in the Anglong district of Assam.
The violence spread to Assam when tribal residents from Meghalaya burned down a forest guards’ office in West Karbi, leading to fears that it would spread across the rest of the state. Mobs set fire to at least two vehicles, one in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong and the other in the Mukroh hamlet.
Protests were conducted at the Lalong Civil Hospital where bodies of all six victims were taken for post-mortem examination. Members of the students’ union demanded that those guilty for the killings should turn themselves in to the Meghalaya Police.
Following reports of attacks on Assamese vehicles passing through Meghalaya, the Assam Police erected barriers at numerous border crossings, and urged residents to avoid travelling to the state in vehicles with Assamese licence plates.
“Just to clarify that incident has nothing to do with the border, the way it is reported in national media. It was basically a clash between villagers and police regarding certain forest timber,” said Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma. Mobile internet services were suspended in seven districts of Meghalaya within 48 hours of the incident. The services, including telecommunications and social media, were shut down across the West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, and South West Khasi Hills districts.
Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma has demanded that a central agency should investigate the firing incident. “I have also discussed with the Assam Chief Minister about the incident. We demand that a central agency should investigate. The NIA or CBI should inquire into and investigate the incident. The Assam government has also agreed and they will cooperate and they will also ask the Government of India for the same,” said Sangma. In addition, Sangma visited Mukroh village and spoke with the victims’ families who were affected by the firing along the state border.
“I have come here to ensure proper action will be taken. In (the) future, such oppression won’t happen. The border issue is our priority. I have discussed it with (the) Assam Chief Minister. We’ll see central agencies probe the incident, (the) Assam government has also agreed to it,” he said. Additionally, CM Sangma provided ex-gratia payments of Rs 5 lakhs each to the next of kin of the deceased.
“We are here to ensure that the action is taken, all steps are required to ensure that in future this kind of thing and the difficulties you are facing should not be there. The border issue is our top priority and we will do everything in our capacity and we are able to resolve the border issue at the earliest,” he added.
“The matter was related to some clash regarding timber and we have ordered a judicial inquiry and also referred the matter to the investigation by CBI or NIA. Compensation has been announced and the person responsible is put under suspension,” said Assam CM Sarma, on Wednesday. In addition, he reiterated that this incident has nothing to do with the ongoing talks regarding the pending border dispute resolution.
Assam and Meghalaya have a longstanding dispute over 12 areas of the 884.9 kms long state border. The two north-eastern states had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March, in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in New Delhi, to end the dispute in six areas, and initiated discussions to resolve the disputes in the remaining six.
Sarma claimed last night that his state police had responded in a way that was “unprovoked, uncontrolled, and arbitrary”. The Assam Police officers involved have been accused of killing the five tribal villagers from Meghalaya.
An Assam cabinet meeting was also held in Delhi, where the state’s ministers had travelled to honour the Assamese mediaeval hero Lachit Borphukan during a major event. Ministers decided to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the police and forest workers to follow when dealing with problems or disruptions involving citizens, and asked the state police force to follow the same in the document.
The officer in-charge of the Zirikinding police station and the local forest range protection officer have both been suspended by the Assam government, and the superintendent of police for West Karbi, Anglong has been moved.