Six people were killed in violence at the disputed Assam-Meghalaya border in the early hours of Tuesday after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest guards from Assam, reported news agency PTI. Among those killed was a forest guard.
Following the incident, Assam Police sounded ‘alert’ in border districts, and also called for an enquiry by a retired High Court judge. Meanwhile, apprehending law and order situation following the incident, Meghalaya suspended mobile internet services in seven districts for 48 hours from 10.30 am on Tuesday.
Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma said that five of the six killed at Mukroh village in West Jaintia Hills District were Meghalaya residents and one is an Assam Forest Guard. He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased.
In a tweet, Sangma whose party is an ally of the BJP, complained that the Assam police and forest guards “entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing”. He tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma in the tweet.
However, Assam Police said that the truck was intercepted in West Karbi Anglong district in Meghalaya by a forest department team and a mob from the Meghalaya side had later attacked the forest guards and policemen from the state, which led to firing by the Assam side to control the situation.
Assam government said that it will hand over the investigation into the incident to a central or neutral agency, and also announced Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia to the kin of the deceased. The Sarma-led government also said that it has ordered action against several police and forest officials, including transfer of the district superintendent of police.
Meanwhile, West Karbi Anglong Superintendent of Police Imdad Ali, who was later transferred, told news agency PTI that the Assam forest department team intercepted and stopped the truck at Mukroh area within the district carrying illegal timber towards West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya at around 3 am. He said that as the truck tried to flee, the forest guards fired at it and deflated a type.
Three people were apprehended, including the truck’s driver, while others managed to escape.
The forest guards then contacted Zirikending police station and police team was sent to the spot. When the team reached there, a large number of people from Meghalaya armed with ‘daos’ (daggers) and other weapons gathered at the spot around 5 am, Ali said.
As the truck tried to flee, the forest guards fired at it and deflated a tyre. The vehicle’s driver and handyman and another person were then apprehended, though others managed to escape, he said.
They demanded the release of those arrested and surrounded the forest guards and police personnel, and following the attack on police personnel, police resorted to firing to bring the situation under control. The police officer said that a forest home guard and three persons from the Khasi community of Meghalaya were killed in the incident, adding the situation is now under control.
Another police official in Guwahati, who didn’t wish to be named, said that four people were killed initially, and later two others succumbed to their injuries. He added that the arrested persons were handed over to Meghalaya as a “confidence-building measure”.
(With inputs from PTI)