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Meghalaya illegal coal mining: Two held for assaulting, critically injuring rights activist, aides; BJYM demands CBI probe

The suspects, Elphon Dkhar and Meklison Siangshai, were arrested in Kongong area in a pre-dawn raid.

Meghalaya illegal coal mining: Two held for assaulting, critically injuring rights activist, aides; BJYM demands CBI probe

At least two people were arrested on Friday in an attempt to murder social and women rights activist, Agnes Kharshiing, her associate Amita Sangma and their driver E Kurbah in East Jaintia Hills district, Meghalaya. Kharshiing is the president of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation. 

The suspects, Elphon Dkhar and Meklison Siangshai, were arrested in Kongong area in a pre-dawn raid.

The trio was critically injured after they were attacked by a group of around 40 people on Thursday afternoon, at Tuber Shohshrieh in the district. Tuber Shohshrieh is a coal belt area in the district. They were assaulted after the activist lodged a complaint on the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the district.

According to the Meghalaya Police, after hearing the news they rushed to the spot and after searching the area found Agnes in an unconscious state in a nearby jungle, while Sangma was waiting for a vehicle on the road. "We got information that Agnes Kharshiing has been assaulted by the mob. We immediately rushed to the spot and searched the place. We didn't find them. Sangma was spotted by police gipsy when she was waiting for a vehicle on road. Agnes was found in a nearby jungle, unconscious," said the police.

Condemning the murder attempt on Kharshiing and her two aides the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) has demanded a CBI or judicial probe.

"We demand a CBI or judicial probe into the attack and also to find out if there is a conspiracy between coal mafia and authorities (police or politicians) to instigate and provoke the mob," said BJYM President Egenstar Kurkalang. The BJYM also asked the government to provide free medical treatment to Kharshiing and Sangma.

Demanding immediate arrest of the attackers, Kurkalang said, "All these problems (Thursday`s attacks) have arisen from a ban on coal mining. The government should speed up the mining policy in the best interest of the public and the society of Meghalaya."

"A suo moto case was taken up by police since the victims are not in a position to file an FIR as they are in a serious condition. We are interrogating the two accused and a manhunt is on to arrest the other attackers," said Sylvester Nongtnnger, police chief of East Jaintia Hills.

Meanwhile, officials at the North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) said Kharshiing was in a "critical condition" while the other two persons -- Sangma and Kurbah -- were stable.

"Kharshiing is on ventilator. The condition of Sangma is stable, while the driver was discharged," said NEIGRIHMS spokesperson KK Pandita.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on "rat-hole" coal mining in Meghalaya from April 17, 2014, after the All Dimasa Students` Union and Dimasa Hasao District Committee filed an application before it alleging that the water of the Kopili river was turning acidic due to coal mining in the Jaintia Hills.

Several political and non-governmental organisation leaders have condemned the attack on Kharshiing and her aides. "The government should punish those responsible as per law," said Meghalaya State Commission for Women Chairperson Theilin Phanbuh.

The attack on Kharshiing was the second such incident on a social activist in the district.

On March 19, RTI activist Poipynhun Majaw, who was the president of the Jaintia Youth Federation, was found murdered in Khliehriat, the district headquarters of East Jaintia Hills.

with IANS inputs