On a cold November morning two days ago, residents of Mukroh were just waking up along the border between Assam and Meghalaya. A series of gunshots jolted them from their slumber, resulting in six people ending up in a pool of blood far from their homes.
Farmers account for most of the villagers, and many of them don’t own land at all. There were six deaths Tuesday in a village 140 km away from Shillong, just before a second round of border disputes was to begin between Assam and Meghalaya.
The Assam Police fired shots that killed Thal Shadap, 45, Sik Talang, 55, Chirup Sumer, 40, Tal Nartiang, 40, and Nikhasi Dhar, 65. The body of Bidyasing Lekhte, a Forest Guard with the Assam Forest Guards, has been handed over by authorities in Meghalaya to the neighbouring state.
The two governments said 48 hours later, the shooting was in response to an alleged timber smuggling attempt in which a truck carrying smuggled timber failed to halt at a forest check-post in Assam and entered Meghalaya. Assam authorities chased the truck, punctured one tyre, immobilized it, and arrested the driver, a handyman, and another individual, according to official versions from both states.
Officials said an Assam Police team dispatched to recover the vehicle was met with resistance from an armed mob because it was already in Meghalaya. Consequently, the Assam cops opened fire on the mob. Immediately following the incident, the Assam Police provided this account. Conrad Sangma, the chief minister of Meghalaya, said the same thing later, adding that it was an inhuman act committed by the Assam Police that won’t be tolerated.
The ‘simple farmers’
The story of Mukroh, however, is quite different. Assam’s claim of timber smuggling is false, according to the village’s headman, Hamboide Sumer. There was no reason for killing simple farmers, he said. It was not a smuggling operation. Even if they were, Assam Police were unable to contain them and they barged into another state. They have failed. Sumer suggested that they be arrested.
Nujorki Sungoh, a local legislator, stated that the Mukroh firing is only one incident in a long series. There is no connection between this and smuggling. People have to pay illegal taxes to Assam authority whenever they carry grass or other stuff from farms,” he said.
According to the legislator, three people were suddenly arrested by the Assam Police on November 22 while returning from paddy fields with sacks of rice. A group of villagers became angry at the arrests and gathered to rescue the people. As a result, five of the villagers were shot. In the beginning, the three people from Mukroh village were arrested by Assam forest officials. The fact that they can arrest someone outside of their jurisdiction is funny,” Sungoh observed.
A number of villagers, including Barlin Langshaing, Bianda Shadap, and Pyanoolad Kyandyah, spoke with a similar voice and stated that the Assam Police had falsely accused the farmers of being timber smugglers. In the aftermath of the firing, the three people who were purportedly arrested by the Assam Police were taken to a nearby forest and beaten severely. According to the villagers, the villagers were later unconditionally released following the firing incident.
Furthermore, they claimed the victims of Tuesday’s shooting were not protestors, but simply passers-by who were caught in the crossfire heading to their field. The Meghalaya government should pursue the arrest, and strict action against the three Assam suspended and transferred officers.
It has become the norm for Mukroh villagers to be harassed from time to time, according to Sungoh, despite being a partner in the government. He has raised the issue several times in the Assembly to say that extortion, illegal taxes, and illegal arrests have become the norm in such bordering villages, but no action has been taken. The United Democratic Party (UDP) of Sungoh is a partner in the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by the National People’s Party (NPP).
The stories of timber smuggling in Assam and Meghalaya are false, according to N Tyngkan, a local Congress leader. This government is defending its functionaries. There is a failure on the part of the government.”
The state of Meghalaya stands in solidarity.
As for the law and order situation in Mukroh, the local police have declined to comment and said sufficient security personnel are on hand to maintain it.
Following his visit to the village, CM Sangma took to Twitter. Informed pressure groups in Mukroh about the next course of action that the Government would take following the shooting incident that claimed five lives. In his tweet, he assured victims that the government would ensure justice for them.
“Visiting Mukroh today to pay respects to the families of the five victims of the Mukroh shooting incident was heartbreaking,” he said. In this difficult time, may God give strength to the families. The people of Meghalaya mourn with them.”
A condolence and prayer meeting was held for the victims of the shooting incident at Mukroh in Shillong attended by religious leaders and Rangbah Shnongs. The government of Meghalaya stands in solidarity with the families of the victims who lost their lives in this incident,” said the chief minister.