10 companies of paramilitary forces sent to Assam-Meghalaya border

The Union government has sent 10 companies of paramilitary forces to the Assam-Meghalaya border even as the Assam government has issued a shoot-at-sight order to prevent escalation of ethnic violence between the Garos and the Rabhas of the two neighbouring States.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists here on Monday that the ethnic clashes, which broke out in the Mednipathar area in East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, had so far claimed nine lives and left 20 injured. About 34,000 people had taken shelter in 37 relief camps in lower Assam's Goalpara district.

About 18,000 Rabhas displaced from their villages in Meghalaya were taking shelter in the relief camps. Other inmates included 7,000 Garos and about 9,000 Rabhas of Assam. There was exodus of Garo people living in Assam to Meghalaya following the clashes, he said.

Mr. Gogoi said each affected family would be given three bundles of tin roof sheet and a rehabilitation grant of Rs. 10,000. He also announced an ex gratia of Rs. 3 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased. The Chief Minister reiterated his appeal to both communities to maintain peace and harmony.

“Our priority now is to defuse the situation. I have spoken to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. I am also in touch with Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma while our Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police are constantly in touch with their counterparts to restore normality,” he said.

The Army's help was taken in defusing the situation and a number of peace meetings were held in the affected and sensitive areas. The police had so far arrested 110 people on charges of being involved in arson and other acts of violence and spreading rumours.

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