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Garo-Rabha ethnic feud; death toll rises to 5; army called in
Correspondent SHILLONG, JAN 6:
Published on 7 Jan. 2011 12:36 AM IST
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Situation along Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district remained tense Thursday, even as the death toll increased to five in the ethnic clashes between Garo and Rabha tribals.
Authorities in Meghalaya extended the curfew in entire Resubelpara sub-division to curb the escalation of the ethnic clashes that sparked off on New Year celebrations.
State’s Commissioner of Divisions, Peter W Ingty said that the death toll has increased to five with Gopi Rabha, one of the eight injured in Wednesday’s attack at Gokulgre area succumbed to his injuries at Tura Civil hospital Thursday.
Sporadic incident of Garos youths burning abandoned houses belonging to the Rabha community were reported from remote areas. “Though, there is no large-scale violence, the situation remains tense in the violence hit areas,” Ingty said. He said the army has been deployed in the violence-hit East Garo Hills district to assist the local police and the paramilitary forces to ensure that there is no further breakdown of law and order situation. Three companies of the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force, besides two companies of the state police, have already been deployed after curfew was imposed in Mendiapathar and its adjoining areas Monday night.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma was in touch with Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister AK Antony and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in the wake of escalated communal flare up.
“I strongly feel that a united effort from the governments (Assam-Meghalaya) is imperative to restore normalcy in the area,” Sangma said.
Expressing distress at the ongoing ethnic conflict, Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary appealed to both the tribes to stop the mutually destructive violence and live in peace and harmony. “It is unfortunate that these two tribes who have the common ethnic origin and bound by tradition and customs are clashing with each other,” Mooshahary said.
Union minister of state Agatha K. Sangma, Tura MP, Meghalaya home minister H.D.R Lyngdoh and former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma rushed to the area Thursday morning to take stock of the situation.
On Wednesday, three Rabha youths were bludgeoned to death by Garos at Gokulgre area in East Garo Hills district, while one Garo tribal was killed in police firing at Rongjuli in Assam’s Goalpara district bordering the violence-hit area after a mob tried to attack police.
The clash between the two warring tribes erupted on New Year celebrations when the Rabhas attacked a wedding party of the Garos and also targeted a Garo pastor.
State’s Leader of Opposition Conrad K. Sangma, meanwhile, has accused the ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government of ‘taking the ethnic clash lightly’.
‘There is no seriousness on the part of the (Meghalaya) government to sort out the issue in the initial stages to diffuse the simmering tension,’ Conrad said.
Over 4,000 Rabha families have been displaced after more than 200 houses were allegedly torched by Garo tribals in retaliation for recent attacks on Garos by Rabha youths.
The Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC) urged the Assam and Meghalaya government to take immediate measures to control and defuse the deteriorating situation along the inter-state border.
“We (MPHRC) urge that all incidents of human rights abuses in the context of the violence are thoroughly investigated and that the suspected perpetrators, whether or not they are officials and regardless of their political affiliation, are brought promptly to justice,” MPHRC Spokesman , Pynskhem Syiemlieh said.

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