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Hours after Meghalaya sought NIA, CBI probe into Mukroh firing, Assam says will hand over investigation to central agency

Officials have said that six people, including an Assam Forest Guard, were killed and several others injured during a clash between Assam Police and a mob early Tuesday over an alleged timber-smuggling attempt near a village in Meghalaya.

Four people, including a forest guard, were killed in violence at the Assam-Meghalaya border after the police intercepted a truck transporting illegal timber in the early hours of Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

Hours after Meghalaya said it would seek an investigation into the firing by the Assam Police, in which six people were killed, by a central agency like the National Investigation Agency (NIA) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Assam announced similar intentions.

Officials have said that six people, including an Assam Forest Guard, were killed and several others injured during a clash between Assam Police and a mob early Tuesday over an alleged timber-smuggling attempt near a village in Meghalaya. The firing occurred around 3 am in an area bordering West Karbi Anglong district of Assam and Mukroh village in Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the Assam Government said it has decided to hand over the investigation into the incident to a central or neutral investigation agency. “Following today’s incident of firing in West Karbi Anglong District, the Government of Assam has already instituted a Judicial Inquiry under a retired Judge of High Court to ascertain the facts, circumstances, and the exact reasons for the incident,” the statement said.

The statement added West Karbi Anglong Superintendent of Police Imdad Ali was “transferred”, Jirikinding police station officer-in-charge Kajal Nath, and Forest Protection Officer at Kheroni Forest Range Shikari Enghi have been placed under suspension. Additionally, all personnel of the police and forest departments in Assam involved in the incident were sent to their respective reserves.

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The suspensions and transfer orders came shortly after Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma condemned the Assam Police action at Mukroh village and said his government would take all necessary steps to ensure those responsible will face action.

The Assam Government has also announced it will provide Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of all six who died in the firing, including those from Meghalaya. The Meghalaya Government had previously announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those killed.

The Meghalaya Government said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by the Deputy Inspector General (Eastern Range) would be constituted to investigate the case. The SIT would conduct the probe and will later hand it over to the central agency whenever it takes over. The Meghalaya Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said a judicial commission also would be constituted under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952, to look into all aspects of the incident.

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Apart from demanding an investigation by a central agency, Sangma had also said a cabinet delegation would meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 24 to apprise him about the firing incident at Mukroh. The state government also announced it will meet the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and submit its report to the panel.

Sangma, Deputy Chief Minister, and a few cabinet ministers would travel to the Mukroh village to visit the bereaved families and hand over the ex-gratia compensation to the families. As a sign of respect to those who lost their lives, Meghalaya has suspended all government official programmes and festivals, including the Cherry Blossom Festival, till November 30.

“The Government of Assam will be taking necessary steps to investigate into the matter in consultation with the Government of Meghalaya,” Sangma had said during a press conference Tuesday.

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He said he had spoken with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma over the phone. Sangma also said the Assam Government has assured it will cooperate on whatever demands Meghalaya puts forward to the Central Government to ensure justice is served and those who are guilty are punished.

First published on: 23-11-2022 at 11:49:17 am
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