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Assam-Meghalaya Border Firing: Armed Mobs Burn Assam Government Office, Vehicles After Border Killings

Six people were killed in a firing incident in Mukroh village on the disputed Assam-Meghalaya border. Tensions have risen in the region over the incident and there have been demonstrations and attacks on Assam government offices and vehicles by Meghalaya residents have been reported.

Six persons were killed in firing incident on Assam-Meghalaya disputed border
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Violence erupted in Assam and Meghalaya following Tuesday's killing of six people in a border firing incident. 

Armed mobs set an Assam government building and vehicles on fire and held demonstrations in protest of the border firing incident. 

Six people, five Meghalaya residents and an Assam forest guard, were killed on Tuesday in Mukroh village on the Assam-Meghalaya border. The two states have 12 disputed stretches along their 884-km-long border. 

The Assam Police opened fire in what it says was an act of self-defence and took place when the forest party attempted to stop a truck smuggling timber. The Meghalaya government said "Assam Police and Assam Forest Guards entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing".

On Wednesday, a group of villagers armed with machetes, rods, and sticks from Meghalaya allegedly entered Assam and vandalised and burnt down a forest office in West Karbi Anglong district. At least two vehicles —one in Mukroh village and another in Meghalaya's capital Shillong— were set on fire, as per officials.  

Meghalaya villagers attack Assam office, vehicles

The mob vandalised the forest office and torched properties such as furniture, documents, and motorcycles parked in the complex, one of the officials said.

However, no injury to the forest personnel posted there has been reported so far, the official told PTI, adding that the villagers had left the area before a team of Assam Police and other security personnel reached the spot.

An Assam government vehicle that was found abandoned at Mukroh was torched by locals, another official said.  

The influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) took responsibility for the torching of the forest beat office and the Assam government vehicle at Mukroh and alleged that the MDA dispensation in Meghalaya failed to protect its citizens.

Members of KSU held demonstrations at the Ialong 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. 

Assam vehicles being attacked in Meghalaya

Following reports of attacks on vehicles from Assam in Meghalaya, the Assam Police continued to advise car owners to avoid entering Meghalaya for safety.

At various points to enter Meghalaya from Assam, including at Guwahati and Cachar district, the police personnel put up barricades and asked people not to travel to Meghalaya in a vehicle bearing a number plate from Assam.

"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," said Deputy Commissioner (East) of Guwahati Police Sudhakar Singh to PTI, adding that commercial vehicles have not been stopped as of now.

Sources told PTI that a car with an Assam number plate was burnt in Shillong on Tuesday evening after miscreants asked the passengers to leave the vehicle.

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.

Cachar Superintendent of Police Numal Mahatta said they asked passengers of vehicles from Assam and other states not to travel through Meghalaya as per requests from the hill state.

"The Meghalaya Police had requested us to control vehicles going inside their state following the disturbances. Restrictions have been put in place as a precautionary measure for the safety of the people," said Mahatta.

Assam-Meghalaya border peaceful: Assam CM Sarma

A day after six people were killed on the Assam-Meghalaya border firing incident, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said the border is peaceful and appeared to isolate the incident from the broader border dispute.

Sarma asserted that the incident was not at all related to the long-standing border dispute between Assam and Meghalaya.

He said, "I am in touch with the Meghalaya CM...The Assam-Meghalaya border is peaceful and it has always been peaceful. Force has been used...However, in my view, it has been used a little arbitrarily. That should not have happened."

Meghalaya demands federal probe, Assam suspends officials

The Meghalaya government on Tuesday said in a statement that a Cabinet delegation will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 24 to discuss the incident and demand a federal investigation by either the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the killings.

Until the federal investigation into the incident is launched, a special investigation team (SIT) will investigate the incident, said the statement by the Meghalaya’s Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), adding that the SIT will hand over the investigation to the federal agency whenever the demand for an NIA/CBI investigation is approved by the Union government. 

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On its part, the Assam government also called for a federal investigation and suspended and transferred police and forest officials. 

Kheroni Forest Range Forest Protection Officer (FPO) Shikari Enghi and Jirikinding Police Station OC Kajal Nath have been suspended and Superintendent of Police (SP) West Karbi Anglong Imdad Ali has been transferred. 

Sarma-led Assam government also constituted a one-person enquiry commission to investigate the killings. The inquiry commission will be headed by a retired judge of the High Court "to inquire into the circumstances leading to the firing incident". The commission will submit its report within three months, said an official statement.

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(With PTI inputs)

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