A flag march was held by the Army in several disturbed areas of Shillong as curfew and suspension of internet services continued for the second day in the city on Saturday. Army troops rescued nearly 500 people, including 200 women and children, and shifted them to the Army cantonment, Defence spokesperson Ratnakar Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.
The move by the Army to defuse tension in the area came following night-long violence and arson during which a mob torched a shop, a house and damaged at least five vehicles in Shillong, besides injuring a senior police officer. As many as 10 persons, including policemen, were injured in the violence. The situation spiralled out of control as state police personnel were attacked by stone pelters in the Motphran area of the city.
The clashes had begun after a boy, who was on a government-run bus that was being driven by a relative, was allegedly assaulted by some residents of Them Iew Mawlong following an altercation with a woman on Thursday morning. One account said that the altercation was over the manner in which the bus had been parked in the locality, obstructing residents from fetching water from a public tap.
The situation worsened later in the day when a mob, which included bus drivers, descended on the locality to retaliate and target its residents. P S Dkhar, Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, said the initial incident was a “petty” matter and the situation was quickly brought under control.
Teargas shells were used to disperse rioters but people in other parts of the city mistook them for police firing, an officer said.
In the wee hours of Friday, the East Khasi Hills district authorities decided to impose curfew in at least 14 localities under Lumdiengjri police station and Cantonment Beat House after it failed to bring the situation under control.
A senior officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “Stones were pelted and petrol bombs thrown at policemen who were preventing angry youth of one community from attacking people of another community. Several rounds of tear gas shells were also fired.” The officer said social media fuelled rumours about three deaths that never happened.
Officials said at least 10 persons were arrested and several petrol bombs and other sharp items were seized from them. Stephen Rynjah, Superintendent of Police (City), East Khasi Hills, had earlier told The Indian Express: “At least 10 people were arrested for separate incidents of violence that started Thursday morning. One among them is an accused in the beating up of a minor boy which led to the violence. The others (arrested) are for the violence last evening. The minor’s condition is stable now.”
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had also urged the citizens to maintain peace in the region. Taking to Twitter, he had said: “We are monitoring the law and order situation closely in Shillong. Efforts are being made to bring normalcy in the affected areas. Request the citizens to maintain peace.” The CM also said that he had held an emergency meeting with his Home Minister and other Cabinet colleagues over the law and order situation.
Meanwhile, several groups including the Khasi Students Union (KSU), the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) and the Hynniewtrep Youth Council demanded that those involved in the assault of local boys be punished. “We demand that the government arrest those involved in the assault of the sons and nephew of the bus driver. The government should also compensate the three victims,” KSU president Lambok Marngar told PTI.