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Meghalaya braces for three shutdowns

By The Assam Tribune

SHILLONG, May 17 (IANS) - Meghalaya is set to see three shutdowns in a row beginning from Tuesday to protest police firing that killed four people at the disputed Langpih village.

While the Khasi Students' Union has called for a shutdown Tuesday, the United Democratic Party has annouced a 12-hour statewide strike on Wednesday. The outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) has called for a separate dawn-to-dusk shutdown Thursday.

National Highways 40 and 44, the lifelines for landlocked Mizoram, Tripura and parts of Manipur and southern Assam, are likely to be affected by the shutdowns.

Four people were killed and several injured in the firing by Assam Police personnel at the disputed Langpih village on the Meghalaya-Assam border. The firing began after a clash between Nepalis and tribal Khasis and Garos at a weekly market.

"We will go ahead with our 24-hour bandh call tomorrow (Tuesday) starting from 5 am till 5 am the next day," Samuel B. Jyrwa, president of the powerful Khasi Students' Union, told IANS.

The Khasi-Jaintia dominated areas of Meghalaya are, meanwhile, tense after several NGOs issued 'quit notices' to Nepali settlers and there were reports of arson and assault on Nepali settlers in the state following the firing incident.

"All Nepali residing in Jaintia Hills district have been asked to leave the district within a week starting from 5 am this morning in protest against the killing of four Khasi people at Langpih," said DL Rymbai, president of the Jaintia Youth Federation.

In Jaintia Hills, where there is large presence of migrant Nepali settlers working in coalfields, four were assaulted and two vehicles were set on fire by miscreants. Similarly, in Nongstoin, about 45 km from Langpih, four people were seriously injured after they were attacked by masked men.

Meghalaya Home Minister HDR Lyngdoh has appealed to agitating NGOs and political parties to withdraw the shutdown calls.

"The situation is tense but we have taken all steps to prevent communal clash following the tragic firing incident," Lyngdoh told IANS.

Director General of Police SB Kakati said security has been tightened in vulnerable areas, especially in pockets where there are a sizeable number of Nepali settlers.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma is to chair a Cabinet meeting, an all-party meeting and subsequently a meeting with NGOs Tuesday over the firing at Langpih.

Langpih village, about 60 km from Guwahati in Assam and 140 km from Shillong, has been a bone of contention between Assam and Meghalaya. The area has often hit the headlines since the Assam government laid the cornerstone for a health centre in July 2008.

Assam claims Langpih based on the recommendations of the Chandrachud committee report. Meghalaya HAS rejected the report.

A boundary committee headed by the chief secretaries of both states has been formed to amicably resolve the issue.

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