A week after six persons were killed in a firing by Assam Police and forest officials at Meghalaya’s Mukroh village, the state’s ruling NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government Tuesday announced to set up border outposts at “sensitive locations” in Meghalaya along the border areas, including Mukroh, in West Jaintia Hills.
The firing, claimed to be a chase to nab timber smugglers, took place on the intervening night of November 21 and 22.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma Tuesday chaired a meeting of the state cabinet and announced that the cabinet has approved creation of outposts in sensitive locations in Meghalaya along the border areas at Mooriap in East Jaintia Hills, Mukroh and Tihwieh in West Jaintia Hills, Rani-Jirang in Ri-Bhoi district and Umwali, Lejadubi and Langpih in West Khasi Hills.
The announcement comes amidst demands and appeals from Mukroh villagers to set up a border outpost along the inter-state boundary with Assam to prevent further transgressions and incursions.
Sangma also said that a few more outposts will be officially sanctioned for Athiabari in West Khasi Hills while the outposts at Patharkhmah in Ri Bhoi and Kyrshai in West Khasi Hills will be upgraded to full-fledged police stations.
In a tweet, Sangma said suggestions have come to set up border outposts in Ri Bhoi District bordering Block 2, which is a disputed location undergoing discussions for border dispute resolution with Assam. The state government will review with local communities to ensure correct locations are ascertained before proceeding with actions, he said.
“Have asked DGP Meghalaya Police to visit the areas and come up with the proposal for the areas of difference in Block 2,” CM Sangma tweeted
He said his government would ensure that swift action is initiated for functioning of the borde.r outposts with adequate manpower and infrastructure to be created for the same.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Tuesday told the media in Silchar that the police should not fire at civilians, whether it is in Assam or Meghalaya. “The police should use their weapons against terrorists and criminals, not innocent people,” Sarma said.
On the intervening night of November 21 and 22, four villagers were returning from a community farm in a car with three to four sacks of rice and some fodder. They were allegedly overtaken by two vehicles of the Assam Police, purportedly yanked out of their car without questions and three of them were arrested, taken back to the forest camp on the Assam side of the border, while one of them managed to flee. It was around 3 am in the night.
Later, around 7 am, a team of Assam Police and forest authorities, three vehicles strong, allegedly returned to the village. Village headman Hamboide Sumer, chairman of the village committee Deibormi Lamin and many others say they suspect the officials had come to arrest more men and so, a large gathering of people surrounded them in the far end of the village and demanded that they free their fellow villagers.
In what Meghalaya later claimed as “unprovoked firing” and “inhuman act” and Assam claimed to be an act of “self defence”, officials of the latter resorted to firing, in which six persons, including five villagers and one Assam forest guard, were killed.
On its part, Assam criticised the police action and said that the firing was not necessary. The Assam government has suspended all the officers involved in the incident and transferred the SP of the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, who oversaw the operations. A one-man commission headed by a retired judge was also formed to find out details of the incident and Assam announced it is ready to hand over the investigation to any central agency.