List of deceased
- Thal Shadap (45)
- Nikhasi Dhar (65)
- Sik Talang (55)
- Tal Nartiang (40)
- Chirup Sumer (40)
SHILLONG/ GUWAHATI, Nov 22: The Meghalaya government has instituted a special investigation team (SIT) headed by the DIG (Eastern Range) to investigate the gruesome incident at Mukroh village under Block-I in West Jaintia Hills in which six persons, five residents of Meghalaya and an Assam forest guard, were killed early Tuesday morning.
“While we appeal to the Government of India for a central agency to take over the investigation, the SIT will start conducting the investigation. When the appeal is approved by Government of India, the investigation will be handed to them,” Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said, vehemently condemning the gunning down of five citizens of Meghalaya inside meghalaya territory.
The Assam government has instituted a one-man inquiry commission, headed by a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court, to ascertain the circumstances leading to the firing at Mukroh.
Giving an account of the incident which left six people dead and two others injured, Sangma said the incident occurred when Assam Forest guards and police personnel stopped a truck carrying timber and detained its occupants.
The villagers soon gathered in large numbers and surrounded the Assam Police and forest personnel. This led to the firing by the Assam Police, in which five people from Meghalaya and an Assam Forest guard died. Two others sustained serious injuries, he said.
According to the chief minister, Thal Shadap (45), Nikhasi Dhar (65) and Sik Talang (55) died on the spot. Tal Nartiang (40) succumbed to his injuries at Barato PHC and Chirup Sumer (40) succumbed at Ialong Civil Hospital in Jowai.
Assam forest guard Bidyasing Lekhte died on the spot.
Home Minister Lakhmen Rymbui, the district magistrate, the SP and other officials rushed to the spot after the incident.
Sangma said the Meghalaya police have registered an FIR on the incident and the government will apprise Union Home Minister Amit Shah of the chain of events leading to the unprovoked firing.
Expressing concern over the incident, he said the government will take all steps to ensure that justice is done and action is taken against all people responsible for this incident.
Sangma said ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of the deceased.
He said the Meghalaya Police had some personnel in the area but they were not numerically as strong as their Assam counterparts. “The Barato outpost was supposed to be inaugurated on November 25,” he added.
While Meghalaya claims Mukroh to be within the jurisdiction of West Jaintia Hills district and not a “disputed border area”, Assam maintains that the area, known in the state as “Mukhrow,” falls under Jirikinding police station in West Karbi Anglong.
Assam’s West Karbi Anglong SP Imdad Ali said that Forest Department officials intercepted a truck that was transporting illegal wood at around 3 am on Tuesday morning. “While the forest guards approached the truck to seize the illegal consignment, it tried to flee. The guards opened fire and punctured the tyre of the vehicle. Three people, including the driver and his assistant , were apprehended, but others managed to flee from the scene,” he said.
The forest officials then informed the nearest police station at Zirikending and requested for additional forces. According to the police, when a team reached there, a large number of people from Meghalaya surrounded them with sharp-edged weapons.
“The angry mob demanded the release of those arrested. The police team had to open fire to control the violent mob. A forest home guard and some members of the Khasi community were killed in the firing,” Ali said.The decision to conduct a judicial probe was taken after the Assam government assured the Meghalaya government of taking all possible measures, including the conduct of an inquiry, to ascertain the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident at a time when chief ministerial-level discussions were being held to resolve differences and issues in six “remaining but critical border areas”.
The Assam government suspended the officer-in-charge of Jirikinding police station, Kajal Nath, and transferred Imdad Ali, the SP of West Karbi Anglong.
Besides, Shikari Enghi, the forest protection officer of Kheroni forest range, too has been placed under suspension. “All personnel of the police force and forest force involved in the incident will be closed to their respective reserves,” it said.
The Assam government has also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of all the six deceased in the firing.