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Assam Cabinet hands over border violence probe to CBI

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Meeting to be held between Meghalaya ministers, Shah today

 

NEW DELHI/GUWAHATI/MUKROH (MEGHALAYA), Nov 23 (PTI): Ahead of a posse of Meghalaya ministers meeting Union home minister Amit Shah, Assam chief minister Himanta Sarma announced Wednesday at Delhi that his cabinet has decided to hand over the probe into violence at the border of the two states to the CBI.

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The cabinet meeting held, quite unprecedentedly in Delhi where the state’s ministers had come to attend a central function honoring Assamese medieval hero Lachit Borphukan, also asked the state police force accused of shooting dead five tribal villagers from Meghalaya on Tuesday, to use restraint while dealing with issues or disturbances involving civilians.

During the special Cabinet meeting held here, the council of ministers decided to bring out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the police and forest personnel to deal with situations arising out of altercations with civilians.

“We advised police to restrain use of lethal weapons while dealing with the civilian population. SOPs for Police as well as Forest personnel will be prepared to deal with such situations. All police stations in charge will be properly sensitized on such matters,” Sarma tweeted.

Earlier on Tuesday night, a Meghalaya cabinet meeting decided to send a delegation of ministers led by CM Conrad K Sangma to meet Union home minister Amit Shah on November 24 to demand a CBI or NIA probe into the violence that left six people, including five civilians from the state and an Assam border guard died on the state’s eastern border.

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“We will officially inform him (Shah) about the firing incident that took place in Mukroh village and demand that an investigation be made by a central agency either NIA or CBI,” Sangma said after the cabinet meeting.

In a tweet tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Himanta Sarma, Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, whose party is an ally of the BJP, complained on Tuesday that the Assam police and forest guards “entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing” on civilians from his state.

In the Assam Cabinet meeting, the ministers expressed deep concern and expressed condolences at the death of six people and injuries caused to several others in an “unfortunate police-civilian conflict situation” in West Karbi Anglong district.

“Our Cabinet also decided to hand over the related police investigation to the CBI,” the Assam chief minister said in a series of tweets after the meeting.

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The state government also decided to request Justice Rumi Phukan, a retired Judge of Gauhati High Court, to conduct a judicial probe into the circumstances that led to the incident, he added.

The judicial probe will be completed within 60 days, Sarma said.

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Opposition in Meghalaya Assembly Mukul Sangma on Wednesday described the killing of unarmed villagers allegedly by Assam Police as a “case of genocide” and demanded action against the culprits.

Sangma, leader of the Trinamool Congress and a former chief minister, visited Mukroh near the disputed border between Assam and Meghalaya where six people were killed and met the victims’ families.

“The incident occurred well within the jurisdiction of the state of Meghalaya. From the inputs I have received from ground zero, it is a fit case of genocide,” he said.

Violence had broken out at the border between the two states in the early hours of Tuesday after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest guards from Assam. Six people, including five tribal villagers from Meghalaya, a forest guard from Assam, were killed.

Following this, a group of tribal villagers from Meghalaya allegedly vandalized and burned down a forest office in Assam’s West Karbi Anglong district, leading to fears that the spiral of violence would spread in the two states.

At least two vehicles – one in Mukroh village where the violence took place on Tuesday and another in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong – were set ablaze by a mob, officials said.

Members of the students’ union held demonstrations at the Lalong Civil Hospital where the bodies of all the six people were brought for post-mortem examinations and demanded that those responsible for the killing be handed over to the Meghalaya Police.

Following reports of attacks on vehicles from Assam driving through Meghalaya, the Assam Police set up barricades at various border crossings and asked people not to travel to the hill state in vehicles bearing Assam number plates.

“Since yesterday, we have been advising people not to go to Meghalaya till the situation completely normalises. We are only requesting the private and small car owners not to travel as miscreants are targeting such vehicles there,” deputy commissioner (East) of Guwahati Police Sudhakar Singh told PTI.

Singh, however, said the commercial vehicles have not been stopped as of now. Some taxi drivers, who returned to Guwahati on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, said the Meghalaya Police escorted them to the border, but still, their vehicles were pelted with stones by onlookers while on the move.

The Meghalaya government also suspended mobile internet services in seven districts, while the Assam Police sounded an alert in the border districts.

Both Meghalaya and Assam also announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased.

A team of Meghalaya ministers will meet Union home minister Amit Shah on November 24 to seek a central agency probe into the matter.

The Assam government, however, said that it will hand over the probe to a central or neutral agency.

The Himanta Biswa Sarma government in Assam also said it has transferred the district SP, and suspended the officer-in-charge of Jirikinding Police Station and the forest protection officer of Kheroni range.

The two states have a longstanding dispute in 12 areas along the 884.9-km-long inter-state border, and the location where the violence took place is one of them.

The two northeastern states had signed a memorandum of understanding in March this year in the presence of Shah in New Delhi towards ending the dispute in six of them.

Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and had since then challenged the Assam Reorganization Act, 1971, which had demarcated the border between the two states.

 

 

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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