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Journey from blame game to collaboration after the Assam-Meghalaya authorities clash deaths 6

It started as a dispute but ended in cooperation. On Tuesday, clashes occurred at the border between Meghalaya and Assam, leaving 6 people dead. According to Assam police, they tried to intercept a smuggled timber loaded truck, and during the arrest process, local villagers supported the detained people, clashes occurred and 5 civilians were killed.

Immediately after the incident, the chief minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, informed the media. He strongly condemned the act of Assam police who, he said, opened fire killing 6 people, 5 of whom were civilians from Meghalaya. But the Assam Police initially issued a statement saying that 4 people died, 3 of them civilians and 1 Assam ranger.

“The forest team informed us about the truck and three detained persons in VO: Makrang area; we asked them to take them to the police station. Later, together with the forest rangers, we sent a team to the site (Makrang). The truck was being repaired and at that moment miscreants came to attack us. In return, we had to open fire,” the Assam police said in a statement.

The dispute between the two states was open, but towards the end of the evening, Meghalaya CM tweeted that both states were working on a solution.

The Meghalaya Cabinet met and made several decisions after the incident:

1. Meet Home Minister Amit Shah and inform him of the incident.

2. Request an NIA or CBI investigation into the incident.

3. Form an SIT to investigate the incident until a central agency takes over.

4. Raise the issue with the National Human Rights Commission.

5. Cancel planned celebrations and functions.

6. Cancel all government and non-government functions until November 30.

7. CM together with deputy CM to visit the scene of the incident and assess the situation and meet the next of kin.

While this clash had nothing to do with the border dispute in the area, observers say it once again raises the issue of repeated blame play between the two states. On the one hand, the chief minister of Meghalaya clearly blamed the Assam police saying that it was they who fired first, while the Assam government on the other hand came out with a statement stating something quite different.

“It can be noted that there was a shooting incident between Assam Forest Officials and unknown miscreants in Mukhrow under Jirikinding PS under West Karbi Anglong District on the morning of 22nd November. The incident reportedly happened when the Forest Party tried to stop a lorry smuggling illegal timber out. When the truck was stopped by the forest party staff, they were attacked by unknown miscreants who resorted to violence. To save their lives, the forest party resorted to shooting. Three civilians and a forest ranger were killed in the incident,” the statement said.

Conrad Sangma called the incident unfortunate while blaming Assam police. “We condemn the incident where the Assam police came in and shot at people. We will work together to ensure that justice is done for the murder of five people in Meghalaya,” he said.

The Government of Assam has set up a one-man Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge and has ordered that this Commission will submit its report within 3 months.

“We have ordered a judicial inquiry and referred the case to the CBI. SP has been transferred and local police and forest rangers have been suspended,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

There have been several clashes in recent times between authorities of different northeastern states, often over border disputes. In the last week of July, at least six Assam police officers and civilians were killed in a border dispute with Mizoram. This led to a war of words on Twitter between the chief minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, and Himanta Biswa Sarma. The police of both states filed complaints against each other.

The central government intervened and the matter was resolved.

While the Assam-Meghalaya dispute has not resulted in a war of words between the two CMs, observers say the relationship between the two states has definitely taken a dive.

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