November 29, 2022

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Assam-Meghalaya border violence: CBI to take over probe; judicial inquiry to be completed in 60 days

Assam-Meghalaya border violence: CBI to take over probe; judicial inquiry to be completed in 60 days

Assam-Meghalaya border violence, Assam-Meghalaya border dispute
Image Source : PTI Security personnel stand guard following violence at a disputed Assam-Meghalaya border

Assam-Meghalaya border violence: On the backdrop of the violent clashes with villagers from Meghalaya, the Assam Cabinet on Wednesday decided to hand over the investigation to CBI, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

The Cabinet also asked the state police force to use restraint while dealing with issues or disturbances involving civilians.

During a special Cabinet meeting held in New Delhi, the council of ministers decided to bring out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the police and forest personnel to deal with situations arising out of altercations with civilians.

“We advised police to restrain the use of lethal weapons while dealing with the civilian population. SOPs for Police as well as Forest personnel will be prepared to deal with such a situation. All police station in charges will be properly sensitised on such matters,” Sarma tweeted.

In the Cabinet meeting, the ministers expressed deep concern and condolences at the death of six people and injuries caused to several others in an “unfortunate police-civilian conflict situation” in West Karbi Anglong district, he added.

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“Our Cabinet also decided to hand over the related police investigation to CBI,” the chief minister said in a series of tweets after the meeting.

The state government also decided to request Justice Rumi Phukan, a retired Judge of Gauhati High Court, to conduct a judicial probe into the circumstances that led to the incident, he added.

The judicial probe will be completed within 60 days, Sarma said.

Assam Police used ‘unprovoked, uncontrolled’ force: Himanta on border violence

Criticising the Assam Police over handling of the Assam-Meghalaya border violence that led to the killing of six people, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said it used force in an “unprovoked, uncontrolled and arbitrary” manner.

Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio, also said the interstate border is peaceful and the recent clashes had erupted between locals and forest guards.

“I feel there was no need to fire to the extent the police did. The firing was a little unprovoked, and the police could have acted in a little more controlled manner,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function in the national capital.

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According to the police, the force was used for defensive reasons during the clash, the CM said.

“However, in my view, it (force) was used a little arbitrarily. That should not have happened,” he said.

Six people, including a forest guard, were killed in violence at a disputed location in West Karbi Anglong district along the Assam-Meghalaya border in the early hours of Tuesday after a truck allegedly laden with illegally felled timber was intercepted by forest personnel.

Sarma said the Assam government is trying to do its bit “very sincerely”, and has already transferred the SP of West Karbi Anglong district, while some other officials have been suspended.

The Assam government has ordered a judicial probe and urged the Centre to conduct a CBI or NIA investigation, he said.

“We have not taken this as a prestige battle. If personnel of Assam Police were at fault, then they will also come under the ambit of investigation,” the chief minister said.

Sarma also asserted that the incident was not at all related to the long-standing border dispute between the two northeastern states.

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Referring to a few statements, especially by opposition leaders, Sarma claimed that neither did anyone encroach on Assam’s land nor was there an attempt to clear encroachment.

“I don’t know why the border issue has been brought in here. The police and locals had an altercation, resulting in firing,” he said.

Assam and Meghalaya have a long-standing dispute in 12 areas along the 884.9-km-long inter-state border, and the location where the violence took place is one of those.

The two states had signed a memorandum of understanding in March this year towards ending the dispute in six of the areas.

Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and had since then challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, which demarcated the border between the two states.

(With inputs from PTI)

Also Read | Assam govt transfers SP, orders probe, day after violence at Meghalaya border killed 6

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