Six killed in firing; Meghalaya, Assam differ on details of clash

Assam government orders investigation by a retired judge into the clash between smugglers and forest officials in West Karbi Anglong; Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma declares mourning for death of its citizens in West Jaiñtia Hills district

November 22, 2022 04:18 pm | Updated November 23, 2022 02:25 am IST - Guwahati

Assam Police stop vehicles moving into Meghalaya fearing backlash following a firing incident in the Assam-Meghalaya boundary on November 22, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

Assam Police stop vehicles moving into Meghalaya fearing backlash following a firing incident in the Assam-Meghalaya boundary on November 22, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

Six people were killed and several others injured in a firing incident on the Assam-Meghalaya boundary early on November 22 morning.

An Assam Forest guard along with five villagers died in the incident.

According to a statement issued by the Assam government, a probe by a retired Judge of the Gauhati High Court has been ordered into the firing between Assam Forest officials and unknown miscreants at Mukhrow under Jirikinding police station in West Karbi Anglong district.

The inquiry panel has been asked to submit its report within three months.

“The incident reportedly took place when the forest party attempted to stop a truck smuggling out illegal timber. When the truck was stopped, the forest personnel 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 read.

But Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said six people were killed, five of them residents of Meghalaya, “due to firing by Assam police and Assam Forest guards”. He referred to the village as Mukroh in West Jaiñtia Hills district.

“Our government will take necessary steps to ensure that justice is done and action is taken against all those responsible for the inhuman act. As a mark of respect and mourning for the deceased, the State government decided to cancel all upcoming official festivals,” he said.

Mr. Sangma also took to Twitter to convey that the Meghalaya government strongly condemns the killings. “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.” he said in a tweet.

He also announced ex-gratia of ₹5 lakh each to the families of the deceased while appealing to the people of Meghalaya to maintain peace and harmony.

From 10:30 am on Tuesday, the Meghalaya government suspended mobile internet or data services in seven districts for 48 hours. This has been done “to prevent misuse” of social media platforms that might “disturb peace and tranquillity”, a notification from Meghalaya’s Home Secretary C.V.D. Diengdoh read. .

Apprehensive of a backlash, the Assam police restricted the movement of vehicles travelling to Meghalaya capital Shillong and the headquarters of East Khasi Hills district, one of the seven where mobile internet has been suspended. “There is no ban on vehicular movement, only a precautionary measure,” an Assam police spokesperson said.

The incident happened at a time when the two State governments are moving toward resolving their differences in the remaining six of the 12 disputed sectors on the interstate boundary. The dispute in first six sectors were resolved through an agreement on March 29.

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