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Arson rerun in Meghalaya

Shillong, July 5: The lingering dispute over how the Meghalaya Board of School Education should be revamped led to another bout of violence during a rally organised by 20 organisations at Jaiaw to mobilise opinion on the issue.

The rally was meant to be a show of support to the Khasi Students Union (KSU)ís campaign for the appointment of a full-fledged chairperson of the board and secretaries in Shillong and Tura. Trouble started when the security personnel keeping a watch on the proceedings tried to prevent some youth leaders from entering the venue.

A section of the 30,000-strong gathering retaliated immediately, pelting the security personnel with stones and broken bottles. Two policemen were injured and a police jeep was damaged.

The police resorted to a lathicharge and burst teargas shells to disperse the mob, which showed no sign of retreating. As agitated youths continued to challenge the security personnel, members of the Seng Longkmie (mothersí union) stepped in to calm them. The elderly ladies requested the police personnel and the two magistrates present there to leave, contending that their presence was adding to the tension.

The security personnel agreed to withdraw from the venue after nearly two hours. But apprehending more arson, police and paramilitary personnel almost immediately ringed chief minister D.D. Lapangís residence in the vicinity of the playground where the rally was held. The East Khasi Hills district administration subsequently clamped a ban on meetings and gatherings in the district till further intimation.

Deputy commissioner D.P. Wahlang said later that security had been beefed up across the district and the situation brought under control. However, Jaiaw remained tense with rumours doing the rounds about attempts to torch the chief ministerís residence.

KSU organising secretary Nickson Dohling said his organisation was planning a seven-day night road blockade, beginning Thursday. The blockade will begin at 7 pm everyday and end at 6 am the next morning.

The district administration has reportedly ordered the arrest of several top KSU leaders, including president Samuel Jyrwa and general secretary Hamlet Dohling.

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