TURA/SHILLONG, July 24: In an unprecedented turn of events, a violent mob laid siege to the Mini Secretariat in Tura forcing Chief Minister, Conrad K. Sangma along with his cabinet colleague, Marcuise N. Marak, senior government officials and the leaders of the protesting group led by ACHIK, to remain inside the premises. They were unharmed, the CMO said.
The mob, numbering in the hundreds, pelted stones and torched vehicles, including an ambulance. Five police personnel were injured. At the time of filing this report, the crowd was yet to disperse even as the district administration imposed a night curfew and prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC.
The mob’s anger was also directed at the protesters as was evident from the torching of the pandal where they were staging their hunger strike.
A large contingent of policemen as well as CRPF personnel was rushed to the site. To quell the violence, tear-gas shells were fired to disperse the crowd but that seemed to have had little effect on the mob.
As per reports, more than 1000 ‘vested interest’ persons, as per the organisers, were behind the violence that has rocked Tura.
ACHIK has been on a 13-day hunger strike over the twin demands of setting up a Winter Capital in the town in Tura as well as the clearance of a backlog of jobs meant for the Garo community.
Currently it has been difficult to decipher the reason for the violence that has seen the CM being stuck in his office.
According to people who are currently stuck in the CMO office in Tura, the CM began the meeting with the representatives of the A’chik Conscious Holistically Integrated Krima and the Garo Hills State Movement Committee at 3:30 pm and a partial solution had been worked out. The meeting ended at almost 6 pm.
However, just prior to the end of the meeting an agitation broke out with protesters sloganeering and condemning the NPP-led government.
Chaos broke out immediately as the mob pelted stones, bricks and whatever they could lay their hands on.
The CM himself was within the premises when the violence began and did not leave.
At least three policemen, one policewoman and a woman home guard were injured during the violence.
“The meeting was going on, we had already agreed to meet in Shillong to further discuss the matter with all stakeholders, and the NGOs seemed more or less satisfied. A majority of the groups and NGOs were not part of this fasting protest, only two-three of them were there. But still I considered it necessary to have discussion with all stakeholders,” Sangma said in the video statement.
“After the discussion was almost over, we heard sloganeering from outside. I asked them not to create any scene out here. Their leaders (of the NGOs in the talks) went outside to speak to the people. They came back and said they did not know them,” he said, adding, “They are some individuals who tried to create some kind of trouble.”
The CM announced Rs 50,000 as ex-gratia for the injured personnel and said their medical expenses will also be borne by the state government.
Giving an update on the current situation, police said that all vehicles entering Tura will be checked and no major movement of people to be allowed. “Naka checking will be done at all Thanas like election time and all public offices and others, especially the CM’s residence and the DC’s office, will be secured. Security will be on high alert,” police said.
West Garo Hills District Magistrate Jagdish Chelani has banned assembly/gathering of five or more persons at any time in the public space or in government offices.
There will be indefinite night curfew from 9 pm till 5 am next day, the order said.
Fuel pumps will be allowed to operate from 9 am till 2 pm under scrutiny of security forces and there will be no sale of fuel exceeding 10 litres except for official vehicles and security forces.