Shillong, June 3: Clashes that broke out in Shillong turned into violent clashes and authorities imposed a curfew to bring peace in the Meghalaya’s capital and on the fourth day on Sunday curfew has been relaxed for seven hours.Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who chaired a high-level meeting on Friday, has appealed for calm.
There exists a decades-long conflict between Khasi and Punjabi communities as Khasi outfits call for eviction of ‘trouble makers, illegal settlers’, residents of ‘Punjabi Lane’.
Since the 1980s, Khasis term Punjabis as illegal settlers and calle for their eviction. Punjabis claim they have been living there forever . Though several political leaders have over the years promised to rehabilitate them but nothing concrete has happened.
At least 500 people have been given shelter in an army cantonment, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
Parts of Shillong remained tense after protesters clashed with security personnel until late Saturday night in which a mob burnt a shop, a house and damaged five vehicles.
Police have so far arrested 10 people in connection with the violence that began on Thursday following an altercation between a Khasi boy and a Punjabi woman in Them Iew Mawlong, a Punjabi settlement in Shillong with around 350 households.
The army conducted flag marches on Friday. Mobile internet and SMS services have been indefinitely suspended in Shillong to prevent people from spreading rumours. Night curfew will remain.
“Curfew would be lifted from 8.00 am to 3.00 pm tomorrow (Sunday) in curfew areas under Lumdiengjri Police Station and Cantonment Beat House areas to allow people to get their essential commodities,” Deputy Commissioner in-charge East Khasi Hills district, Peter S. Dkhar, told.
Dkhar, however, said that suspension of the internet on mobile services would continue beside prohibiting the sale of petrol, diesel etc., in loose jerricans, bottles and any other containers to the public by all petrol pumps within the district.
The magistrate also appealed to the people not to trust false reports propagated in social media like attacks on the gurudwara in the city.
“The situation is still tense but under control. The Army is on standby and will be deployed if the situation warrants. The district administration and the state police are making all efforts to restore peace and normalcy,” he said.
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered to probe the incident as well as to identify the elements spreading rumors and inciting violence.
Making a fervent appeal to all citizens to maintain peace and extend help to bring normalcy back to the city, a government communique said: “It has been observed that false news and propaganda played a vital role in raising tempers and inciting violence.”
“The members of the public are requested to remain calm and not to fall prey to rumors…”
Dkhar imposed indefinite curfew in areas under Lumdiengjri Police Station and Cantonment Beat House from 4 am on Friday in view of the breakdown of law and order in Motphran, Mawkhar and adjoining areas following Thursday’s clash.