The Meghalaya police have begun investigating allegations of “institutionalised harassment” of non-tribal women and children in areas bordering Bangladesh.
The alleged incidents were connected to the February 28 violence in East Khasi Hills district’s Ichamati. A leader of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), a tribe-specific organisation, died in the violence.
The probe followed a directive from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to Sylvester Nongtnger, district Superintendent of Police (SP), on September 30.
The NCPCR had taken cognisance of a written complaint by one Gayatri Borpatra Gohain, a resident of the area, routed through the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
In the letter to Mr. Nongtnger, the Commission said the complainant had complained about “ongoing incidents of institutionalised harassment of women and children in Bholaganj, Ichamati, Kalibari and Kalatek villages” in the district concerned.
“She [Ms Gohain] has alleged that due to the above incident, the children and women are facing terrible harassment from armed insurgent groups and also from the administration,” the NCPCR wrote. The complainant, however, did not specify the nature of harassment.
‘Matter of serious concern’
“The alleged harassment caused to the children of non-tribal families... is a matter of serious concern and a clear indication of inaction and lapse on the part of administration and police in maintaining law and order situation of the area. A strict vigil may be required in maintaining law and order situation of the area and any culprits found should be dealt with under relevant provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015,” the Commission wrote.
It sought details on the number of children affected due to the violence, names of the groups and police personnel allegedly harassing the children, the kind of action taken by the police to ensure the safety and security of children and if any FIR was registered in this regard.
The SP was also asked to submit the inquiry report by October 7.
“An Additional SP is conducting the investigation and the report will be submitted on time,” Mr. Nongtnger said.
Limestone export trade
Ichamati and adjoining areas are known for limestone export trade with Bangladesh. The areas are inhabited by Bengali Hindus and Muslims, and a smattering of Assamese, Bodo, Hajong and Garo communities.
On February 28, a meeting convened by the KSU to discuss the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and demand for bringing Meghalaya under the ambit of the Inner-Line Permit led to clashes between members of the organisation and the locals.
The police had arrested some 70 people after the death of the KSU leader during the violence.