Assam-Meghalaya border combats
The police firing on five alleged timber smugglers belonging to Meghalaya, at Mukroh, West Jaintia Hills in the wee hours of November 22 has brought parts of the state to a standstill. All ongoing festivals on which a considerable amount of public money has been invested have been called off. Above all, the internet has been short-circuited and therefore all financial transactions such as GPay, UPI etc. have come to a rude halt. It takes one incident to send the entire state into a tizzy. What begs the question is why the Meghalaya border outposts are so poorly guarded, under-staffed and under-armed. Each time there is a border skirmish between Assam and Meghalaya why is the latter at the receiving end? To merely suspend or transfer a police personnel after the grave act of committing daylight murder with not enough evidence to show that the Assam police fired in self- defence, is poor consolation for Meghalaya.
The MDA Government should act in concert and not be coerced into a poorly crafted peace deal. There can be no peace without justice and the bodies of the victims in a pool of blood cries out for justice. Allegations that those shot were timber smugglers will remain allegations until proven beyond reasonable doubt and with credible evidence that they were indeed smugglers. This is the route that the law will take, hopefully. Meanwhile those dead have weeping relatives, parents, widows and orphaned kids they have left behind. A one-time compensation for a death is only a short-term solace.
This is not the first time that Meghalaya’s border residents have suffered or been killed by Assam Police. To the onlooker it would appear as Assam and Meghalaya are two separate countries and not states of the same Indian nation. Even interlopers from Bangladesh are not killed in cold blood. Clearly the Assam Police have been given strict orders to deal sternly with violations at the border. The problem is that the borders are yet to be agreed upon; they are still under contestation. So how did the Assam Police decide that the stolen timber belongs to that state? There’s also the case of difference in perception. The indigenous people or tribals are by nature forest dwellers. The modern state with its rules has evicted them from their natural abode. There is a huge clash of civilisation here. Tribals still have faith in the traditional governance system but are at the same time governed by modern jurisprudence and that’s where the interface clashes. But who will resolve these dichotomies?