It started off as a dispute but ended in cooperation. Clashes took place on Tuesday at the Meghalaya-Assam border where 6 people died. According to Assam police, they tried to intercept a smuggled timber-laden truck, and during the process of arrest, local villagers supported the detained people, clashes took place, and 5 civilians were killed.
Immediately after the incident, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma briefed the media. He strongly condemned the act of Assam police who, he said, opened fire that killed 6 people out of which 5 were civilians from Meghalaya. But Assam police initially came up with a statement, saying 4 people died out of which 3 were civilians and 1 Assam forest guard.
“The forest team informed us about the truck and about three persons apprehended in VO: Makrang area; we asked them to bring them to the police station. Later we sent a team along with the forest officials to the spot (Makrang). The truck was getting repaired, and at that moment miscreants came and attacked us. In return we had to open fire,” Assam police said in a statement.
The dispute between the two states was out in the open, but by late evening the Meghalaya CM tweeted showing both states were working on a solution.
After the meeting with religious & community leaders, NGOs & civil society today, I had a telephonic conversation with HCM of Assam @himantabiswa where I expressed deep concern over the unfortunate incident in Mukroh & briefed him about the same@AmitShah pic.twitter.com/dGVSuGTxBM— Conrad Sangma (@SangmaConrad) November 22, 2022
HCM of Assam informed that the OC of Zirikinding PS, the Forest Range Protection Officer incharge of the area who were involved in the incident have been suspended & the SP of West Karbi Anglong has been transferred.— Conrad Sangma (@SangmaConrad) November 22, 2022
The Govt. of Assam will be taking necessary steps to investigate into the matter in consultation with the Meghalaya Govt. The Assam Govt has also assured that whatever demands GoM puts forward to GoI, GoA will cooperate to ensure justice is served & those guilty are punished.
— Conrad Sangma (@SangmaConrad) November 22, 2022
The Meghalaya cabinet met and took several decisions in the wake of the incident:
1. Meet union home minister Amit Shah and apprise him about the incident.
2. Call for an investigation into the incident by NIA or CBI.
3. Form an SIT to investigate the incident till a central agency takes over the case.
4. Bring up the issue with the National Human Rights Commission.
5. Cancel celebrations and functions scheduled.
6. Cancel all government and non-government functions till the 30th of November.
7. CM along with deputy CM to visit the place of incident and take stock of situation and meet the bereaved families.
Though this clash had nothing to do with the border dispute in the area, observers say it again brings forth the issue of repeated blame game between the two states. On the one hand, the chief minister of Meghalaya clearly blamed Assam police and said that it was they who fired first, while Assam government, on the other hand, came out with a statement saying something very different.
“It may be noted that in the morning of 22 November, an incident of firing took place between Assam Forest Officials and unknown miscreants at Mukhrow under Jirikinding PS under West Karbi Anglong District. The incident reportedly took place when the Forest Party attempted to stop a truck smuggling out illegal timber. When the truck was stopped by the forest party personnel, they were gheraoed by unknown miscreants who resorted to violence. In order to save their lives, the forest party resorted to firing. In the incident, three civilians and one forest guard died,” the statement said.
Conrad Sangma termed the incident unfortunate while blaming Assam police. “We condemn the incident in which Assam police entered and fired at people. We shall work together to ensure that justice is delivered to the killing of five people of Meghalaya,” he said.
The Assam government has instituted a one-man inquiry commission under a retired high court judge and has ordered that this commission will submit its report within 3 months.
“We have ordered a judicial investigation and have referred the matter to the CBI. SP has been transferred and local police and forest officials have been placed under suspension,” Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
There have been several instances of clashes between authorities of different north-eastern states in recent times, often over border disputes. In the last week of July, at least 6 police officials and civilians from Assam were killed in a border dispute with Mizoram. This led to a war of words on Twitter between Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga and Himanta Biswa Sarma. Police of both states lodged complaints against each other.
The central government intervened and the issue was sorted.
While the Assam-Meghalaya dispute hasn’t seen a war of words between the two CMs, observers say the relationship between the two states has certainly taken a dip.
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