Guwahati: At least six people, including an Assam forest guard personnel, were killed at Mukroh village in the West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya Tuesday morning in a firing incident that took place in areas along the Assam-Meghalaya border.
The incident comes at a time when talks are ongoing between Assam and Meghalaya over disputed areas along the 884.9 km interstate border. So far, the Assam and Meghalaya governments have resolved disputes in six out of 12 areas, while discussions are ongoing for the remaining six.
Hours after the incident, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma tweeted saying five of the six who died in the “firing by Assam Police and Assam Forest Guards” were from Meghalaya, while one of the deceased was an Assam forest guard personnel.
“The Meghalaya Government strongly condemns the incident where the Assam Police & Assam Forest Guards entered Meghalaya & resorted to unprovoked firing,” Sangma further said in his tweet.
ThePrint reached Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, state Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, and Special DGP (Law & Order) GP Singh via texts and calls. This report will be updated with their comments.
The Assam government, meanwhile, has instituted a one-member inquiry commission into the incident, headed by a retired judge of the high court, and a report is likely to be submitted within three months.
In view of the firing incident at Mukroh under Jirikindging police station of West Karbi Anglong district today, Assam government has instituted a one-member inquiry commission headed by a retired judge of High Court. The inquiry commission will submit its report within 3 months.
— ANI (@ANI) November 22, 2022
The incident took place around 6.30 am Tuesday at Mukroh village, located about 2 kilometres from the Assam-Meghalaya border. The village falls under the Mowkaiaw constituency in Meghalaya.
Nujorki Sungoh, MLA of Mowkaiaw constituency, told ThePrint, “The Assam Police and forest guards came into the village in order to arrest three residents. The villagers started coming out to question them. That’s when they fired.”
ThePrint reached Superintendent of Police (SP) and Deputy Commissioner of the West Karbi Anglong district in neighbouring Assam via phone calls for details into the incident. But they were unreachable.
Imdad Ali, West Karbi Anglong SP, was quoted by the PTI as saying that a team from the Assam forest department had intercepted and stopped a truck carrying illegal timber that was on its way to the West Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya around 3 am. Ali claimed that while the vehicle’s driver and two other people were apprehended, others managed to flee.
Sungoh, however, denied the involvement of villagers from Meghalaya in smuggling activities. “People here often face this kind of harassment by the Assam Police,” he said.
In a purported video of the incident that has been circulating on social media, villagers carrying wooden sticks can be seen on a road, following which firing can be heard and villagers seen fleeing the spot.
The Meghalaya government suspended internet in seven districts of the state, including the West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi district, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills districts on the grounds that “social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc are likely to be used for transmission of information through pictures, videos and text, having the potential to cause serious breakdown of law and order”.
Meghalaya CM Sangma has also announced the cancellation of all official festivals, including the ongoing Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival. The state government has decided to grant an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to families of the deceased.