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Meghalaya proposes joint patrols in riot-hit areas

 SHILLONG, Jan 7 (IANS): The Meghalaya government Friday proposed to Assam joint police patrolling in riot-hit areas to check ethnic clashes between Garo and Rabha tribals.

Altogether, eight people have died in the violence and some 30,000 people have fled their homes since New Year's Day.

Curfew in the Resubelpara sub-division in East Garo Hills district bordering Assam was relaxed for three hours from 2 p.m.

"I have spoken to my Assam counterpart and proposed him joint police patrolling to contain clashes in both areas," Meghalaya Chief Secretary W.M.S Pariat told IANS.

"Once the Assam government considers our proposal, both the state (Assam and Meghalaya) police will work out the modalities for joint patrolling," Pariat added.

He said the situation in the affected areas was under control and there had been no reports of any fresh violence in the last 24 hours.

Both governments are setting up relief camps to accommodate the sea of displaced people in East Garo Hills and Goalpara districts of Meghalaya and Assam respectively.

In East Garo Hills, 10 relief camps have been set up.

"We have at least 5,400 displaced people in these camps from both communities and another 30,000 are in various camps of Assam," Pariat said.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya Police has declared the 250-300 square km area in Mendipathar and from Dainadubi to Bajengdoba under Resubelpara sub-division as "vulnerable areas".

"We have asked the central government to infuse five more additional companies of paramilitary forces to the area. We wanted to restore the law and order," Kakati said.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who left for New Delhi Friday to participate in the annual convention for overseas Indians, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), is expected to meet Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

Home Minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh, who visited the riot-hit areas, met civil society groups and political leaders to defuse the situation.

Union Minister Agatha K. Sangma, former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma and opposition leader Conrad K Sangma also visited the riot-hit areas and appealed to the people to maintain peace.

Curfew was relaxed in Resubelpara area for three hours from 2 p.m. to allow people buy essentials. No untoward incident was reported during the relaxation period.

"We will be monitoring the law and order situation during the relaxation period and a decision for further relaxation will be taken," East Garo district Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi told IANS.

Meanwhile, people are facing an acute shortage of essential commodities even as the district administration in East Garo Hills is struggling to provide basic amenities to those in the relief camps.

"There is shortage of food. We don't even have rice and salt and we are expecting the government to provide immediate relief," said L.C. Momin, a villager in Resubelpara.

"Yes, the supplies are drying up in the all the three districts of Garo Hills as the curfew and blockade by various groups on the main supply route is hampering delivery of essential commodities," Bakshi said.

The government has been running helicopter services twice a day to ferry people stranded in the Garo Hills to return to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.

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