Conrad speaks to Sonowal for status quo in border

Assam, M’laya deny army deployment at Umwali


GUWAHATI/ SHILLONG: Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has spoken to his Assam counterpart Sarbananda Sonowal on the need to maintain status quo in the border in the wake of tension in Umwali, West Khasi Hills.
Speaking to reporters here on Monday, Sangma said he had spoken to Sonowal a couple of times and on Sunday night, he had a telephonic conservation with the Assam chief minister on the need to maintain peace in the border.
Sangma said Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui also met him at 11 pm on Sunday at his official residence to discuss the matter.
To a question, the chief minister denied that the army was called in by Assam government to control the situation.
Conrad said after the budget session, he would meet the Assam chief minister to hold border talks.
Assam government authorities have denied requisitioning army in the wake of the recurring tension at Umwali, a village along the inter-state border, about 35 km from Boko in Kamrup district.
Meghalaya DGP R Chandranathan also said there was no army deployment other than the usual patrolling by the Gorkha Regiment and added that the reports in this regard were exaggerated.
He added that both the sides are now maintaining status quo.
The Home minister has asked both Assam and Meghalaya to refrain from escalating or creating unnecessary tension in areas of dispute.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Rymbui said, “I request both sides to not escalate or create unnecessary tension and better sense should prevail and there is a need to maintain status quo and whatever is to be done is to be done democratically.”
The village witnessed trouble recently after Assam police tried to set up a police camp in a land belonging to a resident of Meghalaya.
“We are leaving in a democratic society and no state has the right to infringe upon the right of the people and fight against the unarmed people and if there is anything like that it is condemnable,” he said
Acknowledging that there has been no official communication from Assam on the development at Umwali, Rymbui said that as per an unofficial version since AFSPA is still operational in Assam the armed forces are doing their normal duty in that particular area.
“How far it is true is yet to be verified. But we have to see nothing happens in Meghalaya,” he added.
Earlier, two armoured trucks of the 11th Gorkha Regiment were seen in the village on Sunday when a delegation comprising officials of the district and police administration had visited the area to take stock of the situation.
A team from Assam had visited the village on Wednesday to carry out a land survey for setting up a government building with reports of a “confrontation” between officials of the two states.
“The presence of the army has nothing to do with the visits by the government delegation that had gone there. They had gone there on their own even as the area falls under our jurisdiction. Moreover, army patrolling does take place in sensitive areas from time to time, and this we assume was another such drill and nothing concerned with our visit,” an Assam police official told The Shillong Times on phone from Boko on Monday.
Substantiating the claim, All Assam Gorkha Students Union (Kamrup district unit) secretary, Gobinda Sharma, who had also visited the site, said the army had gone on their own and had reached the village around 5 am, several hours before the team from the Assam government had reached the site on Sunday.
“In fact, when we reached the site, the armoured trucks of the Gorkha Regiment were returning from the site,” Sharma told this correspondent.
The Meghalaya DGP had on Sunday spoken to his Assam counterpart in regard to restoration of peace in the border area.
Meanwhile, asked about the construction of the “temporary structure”, an Assam government official who had visited the site on Sunday confirmed the presence of such a temporary structure “about 10 km within Assam’s territory.”
“We had taken stock of the situation and made efforts to defuse any tension there. The situation is under control,” he said.
According to Meghalaya government, meetings at the level of deputy commissioners will be held to ensure peace in the area.
“We need to ensure status quo in the border”, a government official said.

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