The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday told the Centre and the Assam government to suggest measures to prevent a recurrence of the police firing along the state’s border with Meghalaya last week.
On November 22, five residents of Meghalaya and an official of the Assam Forest Guard were killed as the Assam Police opened fire after an altercation. The two states give conflicting versions of the incident, including where it took place.
According to Assam, the firing happened in West Karbi Anglong district’s “Mukhrow” village. Meghalaya claims the same place as “Mukroh” village, part of its West Jaintia Hills district.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma filed a memorandum with the National Human Rights Commission in connection with the incident.
The human rights body said on Tuesday that it has sought a response from the Union home secretary and the chief secretary of Assam to suggest mechanisms to prevent a recurrence of such incidents, particularly in areas that are the subject of border disputes between neighbouring states. The panel has directed the officials to submit their responses within two weeks.
“Whatsoever may be the dispute between the states, police has to use restrain in such situations,” the National Human Rights Commission said. “Therefore, it would want to get examined the standard operating procedure in operation, if any, about firing by Armed Forces/Police in areas of a border dispute between neighbouring states.”
On November 23, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the firing appeared to have been unprovoked, but claimed that the incident was not related to the border dispute. “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.
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.
Meanwhile, Sangma on Tuesday said that the second round of talks between Assam and Meghalaya for resolving the border dispute has become slightly complicated following last week’s violence, reported PTI.
Assam and Meghalaya have identified 12 disputed areas along the interstate border. The two states started the first round of discussions in July 2021 and signed a memorandum of understanding in March this year to resolve differences in six areas.
“The situation [for border talks] is slightly complicated and we may not be able to go forward immediately. It could get delayed,” Sangma said, reported PTI. “We strongly feel this [holding talks] is the way to move forward in resolving differences along the interstate border.”
The process for the second phase of talks to resolve differences in the remaining six disputed areas, including Block-I in West Jaintia Hills district, Block-II in Ri-Bhoi and Langpih in West Khasi, was initiated with the setting up of regional committees, reported the news agency.