5 M’laya citizens killed in ‘unprovoked’ firing
State govts act to prevent escalation
SHILLONG/ GUWAHATI, Nov 22: In a gruesome and brutal display of force, Assam Police and forest guard personnel shot dead five citizens of Meghalaya at Mukroh village in Block-I under West Jaintia Hills district, evoking bitter anti-Assam sentiments among the people here and pushing the governments of both states to shift to damage control mode to prevent further flare-up.
The Assam government said the incident took place between “Assam forest officials and unknown miscreants” at Mukhrow under Jirikinding police station in the state’s West Karbi Anglong district.
However, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma blamed the Assam side for the “unprovoked firing”.
“The government strongly condemns the incident where the Assam Police & Assam Forest Guards entered Meghalaya & resorted to unprovoked firing. GoM will take all steps to ensure that justice is served & action is taken against those responsible in this inhuman act,” Sangma tweeted.
He said the incident occurred at Mukroh village in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. He assured that his government would take necessary steps to ensure that justice is done and action is taken against all those responsible for the “inhuman act”.
The Central government and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs are keeping a close watch on the situation which, central sources said, “is under control.”
There was no official statement from the MHA on the flare-up along the interstate border of Meghalaya and Assam, ruled by the NPP and the BJP, both constituents of the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
The anti-Assam sentiment was evident with unidentified people torching an SUV bearing Assam registration number (AS01 DK 5958) near Arya Vidyalaya School at Luckier Road in the city on Tuesday evening. Fire tenders doused the blaze and no casualty was reported.
Seeking to prevent any eventuality, the Meghalaya government suspended mobile internet and data services for 48 hours from 10.30 am on Tuesday in seven districts of the state – West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills.
The government also cancelled all official festivals including the Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival, a favourite among tourists from Assam “as a mark of respect and mourning for the deceased.”
In addition, official government programmers, including the laying of foundation stones of projects or the inauguration of any programmes in Meghalaya has been suspended till November 30.
Despite a ban on mobile internet services, social media was on tenterhooks with citizens protesting the Assam government brutality while condemning the Meghalaya government for not deploying adequate police personnel to man the volatile border areas.
Sangma appealed the citizens of the state to pray for the departed souls and their families. “I also appeal to our citizens to maintain peace and harmony in the state. The state government is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that law and order is maintained,” he said.
“We also had a meeting with traditional heads, Rangbah Shnongs and religious leaders, members of civil society and NGOs to discuss, inform and appeal for their support to stand together in these difficult times,” the CM added.
As a preventive measure and fearing a backlash, the Assam government put a temporary halt on movement of Assam registered vehicles, both private and tourist, from heading towards Shillong, leaving several tourists, both domestic as well as foreign, stranded at Jorabat.
In Barak Valley’s Cachar district, police prevented Assam-registered vehicles from proceeding towards Meghalaya.
Cachar Superintendent of Police Numal Mahanta said that temporary restrictions have been imposed and people have been asked not to visit Meghalaya or pass through the state from Assam owing to the volatile situation.
Reportedly, supply of essential commodities to Meghalaya and Barak Valley, have been severely hit by the travel restrictions, with many commercial vehicles and trucks carrying essentials seen stranded in the district.
DIG (central range) Assam, Satyaraj Hazarika said the situation in the border area was tense but under control even as discussions were underway at the highest level to prevent any more flare-ups.
The Assam Police have sounded an alert in all the districts bordering Meghalaya to thwart any possible law and order situation. All superintendents of police of districts along Meghalaya have been asked to keep strict vigil on any possible law-and-order situation.
With tension prevailing along the Assam-Meghalaya border and even in the capital city, the chief ministers of the two states were in touch with each other over phone since Tuesday morning.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is currently campaigning for the BJP in Gujarat ahead the upcoming polls in that state, assured his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma of all possible help and support to ascertain the circumstances leading to the firing.
Addressing a media conference, Sangma said he has been in touch with his Assam counterpart over phone.
“I have spoken to the Assam CM and briefed him about the incident. Our discussion was very brief. He has assured to take steps that are needed to be taken by the Assam government or any inquiry to be conducted into the incident,” Sangma said.
He said the Assam government will also take necessary steps to investigate the matter in consultations with the Meghalaya government. He said the Assam government assured to cooperate with Meghalaya to ensure that justice is done and those who are guilty are punished.
In addition to the judicial probe, the Assam government has decided to hand over the investigation of the entire incident to a central/neutral investigation agency, an official statement from Dispur said.