New Delhi: Six persons, including a forest guard, were killed after police opened fire at a truck carrying timber at the Assam-Meghalaya border in West Karbi Anglong district in the early hours of Tuesday, November 22, according to Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma.
While initial reporters said the toll was four, Sangma noted that six people died – five civilians from Meghalaya and an Assam forest guard.
The police opened fire after chasing down and detaining a truck carrying timber at the Mukroh village of Meghalaya, the state’s chief minister said. According to the police, they opened fire in retaliation after a mob congregated and attacked them with daggers.
The Assam police sounded an alert in all the districts bordering Meghalaya. The Meghalaya government has suspended mobile internet services for the next 48 hours in seven districts of the state, according to the Shillong Times.
Assam and Meghalaya have a longstanding dispute over 12 areas of the 884.9 km long interstate border.
The two north-eastern states had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi to end the dispute in six of them and initiated discussions to resolve the disputes in the remaining six.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and its challenge of the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, led to the dispute.
This is not the only state Assam has a border dispute with. Last year, the Assam-Mizoram border witnessed a massive escalation of tension, ending in violence which claimed the lives of five Assam policemen. At least 42 Assam Police personnel were injured.
On Tuesday, the Assam forest department team intercepted and stopped the truck at the Mukru area which was allegedly carrying illegal timber towards West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya around 3 am, West Karbi Anglong superintendent of police Imdad Ali told PTI.
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.
Police reinforcements were rushed to the spot after forest guards contacted the Zirikending police station. Once police reached the spot, a large number of people from the Meghalaya side, armed with daos (daggers) and other weapons gathered at the spot around 5 am, the officer said.
The mob gheraoed the forest guards and policemen, demanding the immediate release of those arrested. They also attacked the police and forest officers, claimed Ali. The police opened fire in retaliation, he claimed.
“A forest home guard, Bidyasing Lekhte, and three persons of the Khasi community of Meghalaya were killed in the incident,” the SP said.
It is not clear whether all the deaths were caused by bullet injuries.
“The situation is under control now,” he said, adding that top officers of the district are rushing to the remote area.
Meanwhile, a police official told PTI that an alert has been sounded in all districts bordering Meghalaya and their police as been asked to remain vigilant.
“All superintendents of police of districts along Meghalaya have been told to keep a strict watch on any possible law and order situation. But there is no restriction on movement of vehicles or people along the inter-state border,” he added.
Shillong Times has additionally reported that several Assam vehicles were prevented from entering Meghalaya at Jorbat by the Jorabat police today in a bid yo prevent any untoward incident and public safety, according to Nongpoh correspondent.
(With PTI inputs)