MOBILE INTERNET SUSPENDED; ASSAM & MEGHALAYA ORDER JUDICIAL PROBE
Tension along Assam-Meghalaya border heightened after six persons from Meghalaya including an Assam forest guard were killed and two seriously injured following a clash on Tuesday morning at Mukroh village in Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills bordering Assam.
The incident happened after a truck allegedly laden with timber was intercepted by Assam Forest guards at the border. Of the six dead, five were Pnar villagers from Mukroh village, Meghalaya and one an Assam Forest guard.
Hours after the incident, a vehicle with Assam registration number was set afire by unidentified people in Meghalaya Tuesday night. A fire brigade put out the fire though the SUV was completely burnt. No casualties were reported.
Apprehending law and order situation, Meghalaya government suspended mobile internet services in seven districts of the state for 48 hours.
Addressing the media after an emergency meeting with members of the civil society, chief minister Conrad Sangma said: “Three civilians and the Assam Forest guard died on the spot, while two more persons succumbed to their injuries on the way to Barato Primary Health Centre in the area.” He said the other two seriously injured have been shifted to Barato and other health centres in the area.
In a tweet tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Himanta Sarma, Conrad Sangma said that the Assam police and forest guards “entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing”.
On the other hand, Assam Police officials claimed that the truck was intercepted in West Karbi Anglong district of Assam by a forest department team and that Assam Police resorted to firing after a mob from Meghalaya side attacked the forest guards and policemen.
Sangma expressed strong condemnation over the incident which he alleged was sparked after Assam Police and Forest Guard personnel intruded inside Meghalaya territory and resorted to unprovoked firing leading to the unfortunate deaths and injuries. Sangma also announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakhs to next of kin of those killed. Sangma also spoke to his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma. He mentioned that the area where the incident occurred was not a disputed area where his government was about to open an outpost at Barato later this month owing to the sensitiveness of the area.
Judicial probe: The Meghalaya Cabinet has decided to constitute a judicial inquiry to probe into all the aspects of the firing incident.
Chief minister Conrad Sangma will lead a delegation to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah and demand an investigation either by the CBI or NIA over the firing incident. Apart from the judicial commission, Sangma informed that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) will be constituted to investigate into the case as an FIR has been lodged and the DIG of the Eastern Range will be heading it. The delegation will also meet the National Human Rights Commission and submit a report to the Commission.
Assam govt transfers SP; orders probe: Assam government has ordered action against several police and forest officials, including transfer of the district superintendent of police West Karbi Anglong Imdad Ali. The OC Jirikinding Police Station Kajal Nath, and Forest Protection Officer in-charge of Kheroni Forest Range, Shikari Enghi were also suspended.
The Assam government also informed that it will hand over the investigation into the firing incident to a central or neutral agency and provide Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the six deceased as ex-gratia.
Assam government also instituted a Judicial Inquiry under a retired judge of High Court to ascertain the facts and circumstances that led to the incident.
The Assam government has ordered a judicial investigation and have referred the matter to CBI. “We have ordered a judicial investigation and have referred the matter to CBI. SP has been transferred and local police and forest officials have been placed under suspension,” said Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Meghalaya cancels festivals: Meghalaya government has cancelled all the upcoming official festivals in the state, including the popular Cherry Blossom festival, owing to the firing incident.
“As a mark of respect and mourning for the deceased, the government has decided to cancel all official festivals, including the Cherry Blossom festival,” chief minister Conrad Sangma announced on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) demanded immediate arrest of the Assam police and forest guards involved in the killing of six persons.
The meeting of the KSU central executive committee (CEC) put forth several demands including removal of all police camps and offices of the Assam government from Khasi villages along the inter-state border.KSU also deploying adequate police forces to protect the people of Mukroh from the Assam police.
KSU general secretary Donald V Thabah in a statement informed that the union will organize a series of agitations till the time all the demands are fulfilled by the government.
He also informed that a ‘black flag day’ will be observed in the entire Khasi-Jaintia Hills on Wednesday.