Forest official, 5 others killed in Assam-Meghalaya border firing

Updated on Nov 23, 2022 02:41 AM IST

While the Meghalaya government said the violence occurred at Mukhroh in the state’s West Jaintia Hills and was the outcome of “unprovoked” firing, its Assam counterpart said the incident took place in the state’s West Karbi Anglong district when forest personnel opened fire to save their lives from “unknown miscreants” smuggling timber.

An Assam forest guard was among those who were killed in the firing at the border with Meghalaya on Tuesday. (HT photo)
An Assam forest guard was among those who were killed in the firing at the border with Meghalaya on Tuesday. (HT photo)
ByDavid Laitphlang and Utpal Parashar, Shillong/guwahati

Six people, including a forest guard, were killed in firing at the Assam-Meghalaya border in the early hours of Tuesday, the two state governments confirmed.

While the Meghalaya government said the violence occurred at Mukhroh in the state’s West Jaintia Hills and was the outcome of “unprovoked” firing, its Assam counterpart said the incident took place in the state’s West Karbi Anglong district when forest personnel opened fire to save their lives from “unknown miscreants” smuggling timber.

Five Meghalaya residents and an Assam forest guard were killed in the incident. Both the state governments said they will seek a probe by a central agency into the firing.

“In an unfortunate incident that occurred at Mukroh village in West Jaiñtia Hills District, 6 persons died due to firing by Assam Police and Assam Forest Guards. Out of the 6, 5 were Meghalaya residents & 1 is from the Assam Forest Guard,” chief minister Conrad Sangma tweeted, as he tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the post.

“The Meghalaya government strongly condemns the incident where the Assam Police and Assam forest guards entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing... will take all steps to ensure action is taken against those responsible in this inhuman act,” he added.

Sangma later told reporters that he will visit Delhi on November 24 to apprise Shah of the incident and seek a probe “either by NIA or CBI”.

The Assam government, on the other hand, said it has instituted a one-man inquiry commission headed by a retired judge of the high court and sought a report within three months.

In a press note released later in the day, the government said it will also seek a probe by a central or a neutral agency. It added that the government has ordered transfer of West Karbi Anglong district superintendent of police Imdad Ali, and suspension of Jirikinding police station officer-in-charge Kajal Nath and forest protection officer Shikari Enghi.

The incident comes against the backdrop of the two states agreeing to resolve their five-decade old border dispute in six out of 12 contested areas along the 885 km boundary and ahead of assembly elections in Meghalaya early next year.

Apprehending a law and order situation, Meghalaya suspended mobile internet services in seven districts, while Assam police barred vehicles bearing the state’s registration plate from entering the neighbouring state.

Pyndap Pale, a Meghalaya resident, said he was returning home in his car at around 6am when a posse of Assam police and forest guards waylaid him and tried to force him out of his vehicle.

“I was shocked and afraid as they stopped my car... I sped off towards the village to raise an alarm and after some time, another incident happened,” Pale said, referring to the firing incident.

Meghalaya police said they seized 12 empty shells of 9mm, 18 shells of .303 rifle, 31 empty cartridges of 7.62 mm and 4 rounds of 5.56 mm calibre from the firing spot. A pickup vehicle purportedly used by the Assam personnel has also been seized, they said.

The Assam government, however, said the firing erupted after the state forest officials intercepted a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber.

“It may be noted that on November 22 morning, a firing incident took place between Assam forest officials and unknown miscreants at Mukhrow under Jirikinding police station under West Karbi Anglong District (in Assam). The incident reportedly took place when the forest party attempted to stop a truck smuggling out illegal timber,” the state’s information department said in a statement.

“When the truck was stopped by the forest party personnel, they were surrounded by unknown miscreants who resorted to violence. In order to save their lives, the forest party resorted to firing,” it added.

Both the Assam and Meghalaya governments announced an ex-gratia of 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased.

In another tweet later in the day, Sangma said he “had a telephonic conversation with Assam @himantabiswa where I expressed deep concern over the unfortunate incident in Mukroh & briefed him about the same.”

“The Assam Govt has also assured that whatever demands GoM puts forward to GoI, GoA will cooperate to ensure justice is served & those guilty are punished,” he added.

Former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma termed the incident “genocide” and hit out at both the state government for failing to protect the lives of the citizens.

Meanwhile, a vehicle bearing an Assam number plate was torched by unknown people in Shillong, people aware of the matter said.

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