SHILLONG: About 1,000 central paramilitary personnel have been sent to Meghalaya to tackle the situation in Shillong which has been on edge following clashes between residents of the city's Punjabi Line area and Khasi drivers of state-run buses. An official said around 10 companies of paramilitary forces have been sent to Meghalaya.
The authorities on Monday extended curfew in the capital Shillong as violence continued in tension-hit areas the previous night with mobs indulging in stone-pelting on security forces for the last four days.
"Curfew has been imposed from 4 p.m. on Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday in Shillong as there is likelihood that breach of peace may spread to other parts of the city," Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, Peter. S. Dkhar told IANS.
"The situation is very tense in those areas," he said, adding that suspension of internet on mobile services would continue besides prohibiting the illegal sale of petrol and diesel.
On June 1, the district magistrate imposed curfew in areas under Lumdiengjri police station and Cantonment Beat House in view of the breakdown of law and order in Motphran, Mawkhar and adjoining areas following the May 31 clash.
Although, the curfew was relaxed for seven hours from 8 a.m. on Sunday, the mob continued to pelt stones at security forces forcing the police to fire tear gas shells.
The mob also attacked an undertrial prisoner van carrying a mentally-unstable person, who was referred to be admitted at the KJP Robert Hospital, Inspector General of Police, H. Nongpluh told IANS.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said the police have "found out that there are certain people who are funding this agitation".
Around 400 protesters pelted stones on a CRPF camp near Mowlai bridge in Shillong last night, in wake of curfew imposed following a fight b/w a woman & a bus conductor.Prakash D, IG CRPF says, 'we request public not to take law in their hand & resolve issue with talks' #Meghalaya pic.twitter.com/XopqZJ3p0k— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2018
Meanwhile, a Sikh delegation led by Delhi legislator Manjinder Singh Sirsa met Sangma and expressed satisfaction that the "Sikhs were safe" in Meghalaya.
Shillong-based Sikh community leader Gurjeet Singh denied media reports that a gurudwara was torched or desecrated.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju has also denied rumours of the alleged attack.
How did the clash start?
Media reports state that there was an alleged argument between a Sikh woman who lives in Shillong's Punjabi Line colony and a Khasi bus driver over the parking spot for a Meghalaya State Transport Corporation bus at Them Meteor area.
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Scroll reported that there are two versions of the incident: Some members of the Sikh community in Punjabi Line said that after a Sikh woman was harassed by men from the Khasi community, she and four other women living in the settlement beat them up.
On the other hand, the Khasis say claim that following the argument, they were assaulted by some men from the Punjabi Line colony.
The violence continued even after the parties involved in the skirmish reached a compromise.
Security arrangements in place
The Centre has approved deployment of six additional companies of paramilitary forces in Shillong, a top police officer said.
Security would be tightened in 14 localities of the Meghalaya capital that were mainly affected by the clashes, Director General of Police (DGP) S B Singh said.
"The Home Ministry has sanctioned the deployment of four additional CRPF and two ITBP companies. The state's SF-10 commandoes along with a CRPF company and the district forces are already monitoring the situation on the ground," Singh said.
Last night, the police had forced some protesters, who were apparently involved in the clashes, to leave their hideouts at the Mawkhar and Mission Compound areas near Motphran, a few metres away from the Punjabi Line area, a district administration official said.
In retaliation, the protesters overturned a police van near Roberts Hospital and assaulted an on-duty officer in public view, he said.
The official said as the agitators refused to let go of their strongholds, police had to fire teargas shells to bring the situation under control.
Meghalaya Home Minister James Sangma today appealed to people to stay calm and said the government is doing everything to restore peace in the city.
"The agitators should stop protesting as the government has already met many of their demands, which included the arrest of the accused in the assault of the bus handyman on May 31," he said.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had said yesterday that the violence was a local issue and some people with vested interests had been trying to give a communal colour to it.
"The problem is very much in a particular locality, on a particular issue. It just happened that two particular communities were involved, but it's not a communal thing," the CM had said.
Concerned about reports of security threats in Punjabi Line area of Shillong, the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab said yesterday it would send a four-member team, headed by Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, to the Meghalaya capital, to assess the situation.
Singh has sought Meghalaya Chief Minister Sangma's cooperation in facilitating the team's visit.
(With inputs from PTI, IANS and online desk)