| A burnt house at Mendipathar in East Garo Hills. (PTI) |
Jan. 7: There was no respite to the torching of houses on the Assam-Meghalaya border today.
To check the spurt of arson and restore normalcy, Meghalaya today proposed joint patrolling with Assam in the conflict zone.
Briefing reporters, Meghalaya chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat said he had spoken to his Assam counterpart on the need for joint patrolling. He has also sent a formal proposal in this regard. “We feel that there is a need to have joint patrolling in East Garo Hills and Goalpara districts as a measure to instil a sense of security in the minds of the people so that normalcy returns at the earliest,” Pariat said.
Though no casualty was reported from Assam today, there were several cases of arson in parts of East Garo Hills district in Meghalaya.
The violence also spread from the borders to Williamanagar town as at least five shops belonging to the Rabhas were torched in the headquarters of the district.
The total number of casualties during the current ethnic violence stands at eight.
The East Garo Hills district administration relaxed curfew for three hours from 2pm to 5pm in Resubelpara and Mendipathar.
Curfew was also lifted along NH 37 from Krishnai to Dhupdhara in Assam but Section 144 remains in force.
If the situation remains as it was today with no fresh incidents of violence and arson, the administration will relax curfew in other areas under Krishnai, Dudhnoi, Rongjuli and Dhupdhara police stations from 9am to 12 noon tomorrow.
Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain today took stock of the situation in meetings with officials of the district administration and security forces.
Meghalaya director-general of police S.B. Kakati today said ever since ethnic violence started on January 1, as many as 200 houses belonging to Rabhas were burnt down in East Garo Hills.
Around 5,100 persons — both Rabhas and Garos — are also taking shelter in the relief camps.
On maintaining law and order, the DGP said five companies of paramilitary forces have already been pressed into service in East Garo Hills.
“We have urged the Centre to deploy five more companies of paramilitary forces,” Kakati said, adding that three companies of state police were also camping in the vulnerable areas.
In addition to this, the BSF had also deployed its personnel on the Assam-Meghalaya border. Kakati, however, said the army had not yet beendeployed.
The 250 square km area in Mendipathar and from Dainadubi to Bajengdoba has been declared vulnerable.
The Meghalaya DGP, who is in constant touch with his Assam counterpart, said the exodus of people from both sides was still continuing.
“We have to first of all bring back order and we hope that the security measures will instil confidence among the people,” he said.
Tracing the genesis of the problem, the Kakati said too much of road blockades by the Rabhas had resulted in the current violence.
A delegation led by Union minister of state for rural development Agatha Sangma, Meghalaya Opposition leader Conrad Sangma and Tura legislator P.A. Sangma had to face the anger of Rabhas at a relief camp in Chotomatiya village under Dudhnoi police station, after they went there mistaking it for a Garo relief camp.
P.A. Sangma told the people at the camp that they were on a goodwill mission.
After hearing the news about torching of houses nearby, some police personnel who were accompanying the Sangma family had to retreat.
As more Rabhas with weapons joined the crowd, the police faced difficulty in controlling the situation and had to fire in the air, besides resorting to lathicharge, to evacuate the visiting dignitaries..