Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Tuesday claimed that six persons died in Mukroh village of the state’s West Jaintia Hills district after the Assam Police opened fire at them. Five of those killed are residents of Meghalaya, while one is an official of the Assam Forest Guard, he claimed.

However, authorities in Assam have claimed that the village falls within their jurisdiction and only four persons died in the firing.

The claims differ from the Sangma’s version who said that the Assam Police and the Assam Forest Guard chased down a truck carrying timber from their state before detaining it at Mukroh village of Meghalaya.

At a press conference, Sangma added that violence erupted after villagers, who heard the truck had been stopped, gheraoed the Assam officials. Videos on social media show villagers marching towards the Assam officers. A few seconds later, the police open fire and the villagers start to flee.

Following the incident, internet services were suspended for 48 hours in seven Meghalaya districts – West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Assam government claimed that the village falls under the jurisdiction of Jirikinding Police Station in its West Karbi Anglong district. The government also put the toll at four, including the Assam Forest Guard official.

On Tuesday evening, the Assam government suspended the officer in-charge of the local police station and the police superintendent of the West Karbi Anglong district.

Assam and Meghalaya are engaged in a border dispute and have been holding dialogues to resolve them.

Territorial disputes between the two states began when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam on January 21, 1972, under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971. Disputes arose at 12 locations after Meghalaya had challenged the law. Assam is the only state with which Meghalaya shares an internal border.

On Tuesday, Assam’s West Karbi Anglong District Superintendent of Police Imdad Ali told PTI that the forest guards opened fired at the truck carrying illegal timber, after it tried to flee. Ali said that the villagers, armed with weapons, were demanding that the police release those in the truck.

He told PTI that the police opened fire to bring the situation under control.

Ali identified the Assam Forest Guard official as Bidyasing Lekhte. However, it is not clear how the official was killed.

A tweet by Sangma identified the remaining dead persons as Thal Shadap, Nikhasi Dhar, Sik Talang, Tal Nartiang and Chirup Sumer.

Meghalaya festivals cancelled, Assam forms inquiry panel

At the press conference, Sangma announced that all official festivals, including the ongoing Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival, will be cancelled.

“The state government strongly condemns the incident in which the Assam Police and the Assam Forest Guard entered Meghalaya and resorted to unprovoked firing,” the chief minister said. “The government of Meghalaya will take all steps possible to ensure that justice is done and action is taken against all those responsible for this inhumane act.”

Sangma also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the families of those who died.

“We have noted down 4-5 points but we shall be meeting the Union Home Minister [Amit Shah] and apprise him of the incident,” the chief minister added, reported India Today NE.

Meanwhile, the Assam government has formed an inquiry commission led by a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court. The commission has been directed to submit its report within three montjs.