Shillong remained tense on Sunday, two days after protests and violent clashes were reported from several localities following an altercation between a Khasi boy and Punjabi women. Curfew was imposed in several parts of the city till this morning. Mobile internet and SMS services were snapped to prevent violence from flaring up again.
The tension between the two communities stems from a long-standing demand from sections of the Khasi society to evict alleged “illegal settlers” from the area.
As reported by The Indian Express, according to multiple sources including police officers, district officials and residents, the violence began when a boy, who was on a government-run bus that was being driven by a relative, was assaulted by some residents of Them Iew Mawlong following an altercation with a woman. One account said 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 altercation on Thursday had led to violent clashes the next day during which a mob torched a shop, a house and damaged at least five vehicles, besides injuring at least 10 people, including a senior police officer.
The police has arrested ten people in connection with the clashes.
Late Friday night, the Army conducted a flag march in the restive areas after protesters set a house near the Them Iew Mawlong locality on fire and threw stones and petrol bombs at security personnel, following rumours on social media. “Requisitioned by the state government, Army troops held flag marches and rescued about 500 people, including 200 women and children,” Defence spokesperson Ratnakar Singh told news agency PTI.
Calling the residents of Punjabi Lane “trouble-mongers who often harass Khasi people”, KSU general secretary Donald Thabah said, “We demand that the illegal settlers in that area are immediately evicted.” Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who chaired a high-level meeting with the Home Minister, had appealed for calm and urged the people to help bring back normalcy in the capital.
Policemen came under intense attack in Motphran area of the city by stone pelters, after which the authorities resorted to firing teargas shells to disperse them. A senior officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “Stones were pelted and petrol bombs were 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.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh expresses concerns
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had expressed concerns over the developments in Meghalaya and hoped that the situation will not escalate further. He requested his Meghalaya counterpart to keep him informed of the situation and offered any help needed to defuse the tension.
The Meghalaya CM later called up Singh to assure him of the safety of people from the northern state and their religious institutions following the communal clashes. He said there was no damage to any religious place or other institutions belonging to the people from Punjab in Meghalaya.
(With inputs from PTI)