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Curfew relaxed in Shillong; Sangma appeals for calm

Swift action:Security men deployed in Shillong during the curfew on Saturday.PTIPTI   | Photo Credit: PTI

Curfew was relaxed in parts of riot-hit Shillong for seven hours on Sunday. The easing of restrictions allowed several stranded tourists to leave the city, under lock-down for the past two days.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said Thursday’s violence between local Khasi groups and Sikh settlers, which left at least 10 persons injured, was a local issue and not a communal one.

“Curfew has been relaxed from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in view of the improvement in the law and order situation since Saturday evening. But night curfew across the city will remain until further orders,” P.S. Dkhar, Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills district, told The Hindu on Sunday.

Transport services hit

Mr. Dkhar said local taxis and private vehicles were plying but long-distance transport services, especially to Guwahati, remained affected.

“We do not know how many tourists are stranded in Shillong, but we are trying to ensure they can return home safe,” he said.

Following reports of attacks on Sikhs in Shillong, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh urged Mr. Sangma to provide protection to the community and its religious institutions.

Team from Punjab

The Punjab government has decided to rush a four-member team, headed by a Cabinet Minister, to Shillong to assess the situation and provide assistance, an official spokesperson said.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju meanwhile said there had been no damage to any gurdwara or other institutions belonging to the Sikh community.

Most of the touristy hotels are in Police Bazaar area, close to the trouble-torn area.

Clashes erupted in the hill town on Thursday between residents of the Punjabi Line in the Them Iew Mawlong locality and employees of state-run buses belonging to the Khasi community. Several policemen were injured.

Violence erupted after a bus helper was allegedly assaulted by residents of the area over the parking of a bus that obstructed access to a water source.

Rumours on social media that the Khasi helper had been killed in the attack provoked further unrest, though the police swiftly contained the violence.

About 500 residents of the locality, mostly women and children from families of Sikhs employed as sanitation workers by the municipality, are said to have taken shelter at Shillong’s Garrison Ground under the jurisdiction of the Army’s 101 Area.

( With PTI inputs )