The firing by the Assam Police on civilians along the state’s border with Meghalaya appeared to have been unnecessary and unprovoked, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday, The Times of India reported.

Five of those who died in the incident on Tuesday were civilians, while one was an Assam Forest Guard official, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma claimed.

On Wednesday, Sarma said that the Assam Police could have exercised restraint in the case. “I think the firing was not necessary and it appears to be unprovoked,” he said.

The Assam chief minister, however, claimed that the incident was not related to the border dispute between the two states. “The firing was a fall-out of the clash between locals of Meghalaya and forest and police personnel of Assam and not a border clash,” he said.

The Assam Cabinet has decided to transfer the investigation of the firing to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Sarma said, according to The Hindu. The Council of Ministers has also decided that standard operating procedures will be framed for police and forest officials to deal with civilians.

The Assam chief minister added that the state government has decided to request Justice Rumi Phukan, a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court, to carry out a judicial investigation into the circumstances that led to the firing.

Violence continues, internet ban extended

Meanwhile, the ban on internet services that were imposed till Thursday in seven districts of Meghalaya, has now been extended for further 48 hours as violence continued in parts of the state, reported North East Now.

The districts where the services will remain disrupted are West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi.

Following Tuesday’s firing, armed villagers from Mukhroh, where the incident occurred, marched to the beat office under the Kheroni Forest Range located along the inter-border in Assam and vandalised it.

A government vehicle was also torched in Mukroh village and a car bearing Assam’s number plate was set on fire in Shillong, officials said.

On Thursday, a traffic booth in Shillong Civil Hospital junction was torched while a government bus was vandalised, reported The Shillong Times. The mob also tried to set the bus on fire.

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Border clash: What lies beneath the Assam-Meghalaya violence?

Firing incident

The firing took place on Tuesday after Assam forest officials stopped a truck allegedly carrying smuggled timber. The violence occurred in the “Mukroh” village, which is a part of Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills district. But the Assam government calls it “Mukhrow”, claiming the village is part of its West Karbi Anglong district.

Territorial disputes between the two states had begun when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam on January 21, 1972, under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971. Disputes arose after Meghalaya had challenged the law.