The Chief Minister and the entire cabinet should take moral responsibility and resign over the Mukroh massacre, the opposition Congress party said today.
This would also pave the way for a new government that is committed to protecting Meghalayan residents who live on the border with Assam, Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee working president Pynshngain Syiem said.
He was speaking during a condolence meeting and candlelight vigil called by the Congress at its party headquarters to pay respects to those who lost their lives in Tuesday’s incident where Assam police shot dead five Meghalayans and an Assam forest official during a stand-off.
“We have unanimously resolved to demand that the Chief Minister and his council of ministers take responsibility by resigning and let others who can lead the government and take decisions to protect the people along the inter-state border with Assam,” Syiem told reporters.
However, the Congress is not in favour of President’s Rule, understandably as this would give the BJP, its arch-rivals, greater control over Meghalaya just a few months before the next state election.
The party has demanded government jobs for the victims’ families and the lifting of the mobile internet ban, which was introduced by the Meghalaya government following the massacre to forestall any law and order disturbances, and the immediate set up of police outposts all along the border.
Syiem hurled more arrows at the Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma, and his government, saying that it is too weak, which is why Assam “continues to harass and kill” those in border areas. “What is the use of border talks if our people are killed within the territory of the state? The border talks have no meaning at all.” Border negotiations have been going on between the two sides to resolve their many areas of difference. Ironically, however, Mukroh is not in dispute between the two states.
The Congress leader also rejected the suggestion of the Trinamool Congress that village defence party (VDP) members should be armed and act as a first line of defence for Meghalaya’s borders. “Why should untrained people handle guns? It would be very difficult and dangerous for them. It is for the state government to send the police forces to all border areas and not use the public as human shields.”
Welcoming the Centre’s decision to institute a CBI probe into the Mukroh incident, Syiem cautically stated that he would also be happy if an investigation by the central agency could be instituted into “illegal coal transportation”.
Syiem also slammed the Assam police for alleging that the Mukroh villagers were smuggling timber. Residents have since claimed that Assam police and forest officials routinely extort money from them whenever they transport forest or farm produce. “These people are not involved in illegal timber smuggling as they are farmers. That is why saying that they are smugglers is only the tactic of the Assam police to create confusion in the minds of the people,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the disturbances that have plagued the city since Tuesday’s incident, Syiem, an MDC and former MLA, said that violence is not the solution but other forms of agitation against the cabinet ministers who have failed to protect the lives of the people would be justified.