New Delhi: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said the firing incident in the Mukroh area along the Assam-Meghalaya border had nothing to do with the border dispute between the two states as he termed it a “clash between the villagers and police”.
“The matter was related to some clash about forest timbers. We have ordered a judicial inquiry. We have also referred the matter to CBI & NIA. Compensation has been announced. The person responsible has been put under suspension,” he said, as quoted by news agency ANI.
He further stressed, “That has nothing to do with border issues. It was a clash between the villagers and the police. I don’t think that it has anything to do with the border talks.”
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On Wednesday, the Assam Chief Minister chaired a cabinet meeting in Delhi which decided to hand over the probe into the violence at the border of the two states to the CBI.
The cabinet meeting was held quite unprecedentedly in the national capital as the state’s ministers had come to attend a central function honoring Assamese medieval hero Lachit Borphukan.
The Assam cabinet asked the state police force accused to use restraint while dealing with issues or disturbances involving civilians. The council of ministers also decided to bring out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the police and forest personnel to deal with situations arising out of altercations with civilians.
Six Dead In Violence Along Assam-Meghalaya Border
Violence had broken out at the border between the two states in the early hours of Tuesday after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest guards from Assam. According to news agency PTI, six people, including five tribal villagers from Meghalaya and a forest guard from Assam, were killed.
After the incident, a group of tribal villagers from Meghalaya allegedly vandalised and burned down a forest office in Assam’s West Karbi Anglong district, prompting fears that the spiral of violence would spread in the two states.
At least two vehicles – one in Mukroh village where the violence took place on Tuesday and another in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong – were set ablaze by a mob, PTI reported officials as saying.
In a tweet, Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, whose party is an ally of the BJP, complained that the Assam police and forest guards “entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing” on civilians from his state. He tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma in the Twitter thread.
The Meghalaya 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.
— Conrad Sangma (@SangmaConrad)
Delegation Of Meghalaya Ministers Led By CM Conrad K Sangma To Meet Amit Shah Today
A team of Meghalaya ministers will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday to seek a central agency probe into the matter. A Meghalaya cabinet meeting decided to send a delegation of ministers led by CM Conrad K Sangma to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 24 to demand a CBI or NIA probe into the violence
The Assam government said that it will hand over the probe to a central or neutral agency.
The Himanta Sarma government informed that it has transferred the district SP and suspended the officer-in-charge of Jirikinding Police Station and the Forest Protection Officer of Kheroni range.
Both Meghalaya and Assam have announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased.
The body of the deceased Assam Forest Protection Force personnel, identified as Bidyasing Lekhte, was handed over to Assam, PTI reported an Assam government official as informing.
Assam-Meghalaya Border Dispute
Notably, the two states have a longstanding dispute in 12 areas along the 884.9-km-long inter-state border, and the location where the violence took place is among them.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and had since then challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, which had demarcated the border between the two states.
The two northeastern states had signed a memorandum of understanding in March this year in the presence of Shah in New Delhi towards ending the dispute in six of them.
(With Agency Inputs)