Guwahati: Meghalaya government has suspended mobile internet services for the next 48 hours from 10-30 AM on Tuesday in seven districts of the neighbouring state in the wake of violence along the Assam-Meghalaya border in which at least six persons died in the wee hours.
The seven districts where internet service was suspended were– West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills.
Amid continuing discussions to settle the border conflict between Assam and Meghalaya, at least five persons from Meghalaya and one forest personnel from Assam side were killed at Mukroh village bordering Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills and Assam’s Karbi Anglong districts.
The violence happened when a sleuth of Assam police and forest guards intercepted a truck suspected to be smuggling timbers illegally at around 3 AM on Tuesday. Sources said that when the security forces asked the vehicle to stop it tried to escape forcing Assam police to fire at its tyre. Three persons were held by the join team while others fled.
However, a huge number of people from Meghalaya armed with ‘dao’ (machete) and other weapons gathered at the spot soon after and demanded immediate release of those held by the Assam security forces and allegedly tried to attack them. Immediately, security forces opened fire to disperse the mob leading to the deaths.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma has held the Assam security team responsible for the incident. He said, “It’s an inhuman act by the Assam police and forest guards who entered Meghalaya territory and resorted to firing upon villagers ‘unprovoked’. We condemn the act and will work for giving justice to the deceased.”
Sangma informed that already Meghalaya police have lodged an FIR against Assam police and forest guards. He said that the state cabinet would sit in the evening to take forward the matter. “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 are maintained,” he added.
Meghalaya government has also cancelled the iconic ‘cherry blossom’ festival in the state as a mark of respect to the deceased. The fest attracts thousands of people from all corners of the world to enjoy the spectacle of cherry blossom season.
The Meghalaya government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the five Meghalaya deceased persons’ families.
Meanwhile, Assam police have urged people from the state not to visit Meghalaya temporarily. Already, many vehicles were stopped at a Jorabat check gate at the Assam-Meghalaya border near the capital city from entering the neigbouring state.
“Only vehicles with emergency and having Meghalaya registration were allowed to go,” said police sources at Jorabat here. Those who were already in Meghalaya were also asked to leave the state.
Though sources said that Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was in constant touch with his Meghalaya counterpart, no official statement has been issued by Sarma till the filing of this report.
The incident occurred at a time when both states were planning to hold the next round of discussion on border disputes shortly. On November 10, Sangma said the second round of discussions with Assam for resolving the border dispute was likely to start by the end of this month.
Assam and Meghalaya identified 12 disputed areas at the inter-state border. In the first round, the two northeastern states resolved differences in six areas and signed an agreement in March.