Violence broke out during a public hearing for expansion of operations of the Meghalaya Cements Limited (Topcem) in Thangskai village under East Jaiñtia Hills district today.
At least 15 people were injured, including nine policemen as protesters barged into the premises of the Meghalaya Cements Limited (Topcem) to protest the conduct of the public hearing.
East Jaiñtia Hills Superintendent of Police, Jagpal Singh Dhanoa said while the public hearing was under way, protesters numbering 100-150 turned into a mob and started breaking chairs, vandalised the marquee and attempted to set it on fire.
“Since there were many women and children present at the venue the district police did not use any force to disperse the mob,” he said.
After consultation with district administration and Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) officials, the venue was shifted to the community hall of Topcem.
Dhanoa said the mob attacked again at the second venue and despite several requests, the protesters turned more violent and started stone-pelting, following which police resorted to lathi-charge and firing tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.
The public hearing was held for expansion of the Topcem clinkerisation plant from 2600 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) up to 4,500 TPD.
Pressure groups like the Jaiñtia National Council and Hynñiewtrep Achik National Movement had urged the Deputy Commissioner not to go ahead with the public hearing.
The groups claimed that the operations of the companies in the district has not led to much of an employment gain as very few locals are employed there, with most jobs, including those at the management level, being occupied by outsiders.
The protesters were against the no objection certificate issued by the waheh shnongs which according to them was given to the cement plant without any consultation in the dorbar.
Meanwhile, a case under sections 143/144/145/148/152 IPC was registered at Lumshnong police station and investigation is underway, police said.