Fresh clash along Meghalaya-Assam border; additional forces rushed

ByDavid Laitphlang
Sep 27, 2023 04:43 PM IST

The clash comes months after chief ministers of the two states in May initiated the second phase of talks to resolve disputes in the six remaining areas along the 884.9 km inter-state border

Additional police forces were rushed to Lapangap in Meghalaya’s West Jaiñtia Hills following a clash along the state’s border with Assam over crop harvest on a contested piece of land on Wednesday, a top official said and added the situation was under control.

The Assam-Meghalaya border. (AP/Representative)
The Assam-Meghalaya border. (AP/Representative)

West Jaiñtia Hills deputy commissioner BS Sohliya said magistrates and a sizeable police force were at the spot to maintain peace and pacify the people from both sides. Sohliya maintained the land belongs to Lapangap’s people and they have been cultivating it. “All they need is to harvest their produce,” he said.

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The clash comes months after chief ministers of the two states in May initiated the second phase of talks to resolve disputes in the six remaining areas along the 884.9 km inter-state border. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart, Conrad K Sangma, earlier signed an agreement in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on six other areas along the border.

Five Meghalaya residents and an Assam forest guard were killed in a clash along the border in November last year. The Meghalaya government said the violence was the outcome of “unprovoked” firing. Assam maintained the incident took place in the state’s West Karbi Anglong district when forest personnel fired to save their lives from timber smugglers.

West Jaiñtia Hills police superintendent S Syrti said adequate force was at the spot on Wednesday and that things were being managed. “Two platoons under a deputy police superintendent’s watch were at the scene to ensure peace and tranquillity along the border.”

People aware of the matter said arrows were allegedly shot at farmers from the Assamese side of the border in the West Karbi Anglong district. A policeman had a narrow escape, they added.

Residents last week wrote to Sohliya seeking the deployment of central forces in the area to prevent any attempt from the other side to destroy plantations.

In August, stones were thrown at a Meghalaya Police team in the same area and prompted it to retreat to avoid any untoward incident. The Assam Police allegedly accompanied people from Assam who allegedly destroyed thousands of saplings in the area in July.

An Assam commission probing the circumstances that led to the cross-border firing in November last year wrapped up its hearing in Meghalaya last month even as no witnesses deposed before it. It returned to Guwahati expressing concern over the lack of response.

A Meghalaya official said they have their commission of inquiry and that the Assam panel has no locus standi as the incident happened in Meghalaya.

The Assam’s retired Gauhati high court judge Rumi Kumari Phukan-led panel held a sitting at Shillong’s Assam House. It issued a notice about the hearing in a local English newspaper on August 4 requesting those with knowledge of the incident to depose.

The Meghalaya government was also notified and requested to produce witnesses and documents. The West Jaiñtia Hills deputy commissioner was directed to serve notices to witnesses to appear before the commission. But there was no response from the government and no one appeared.

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