Shillong (PTI): Curfew in pockets of Shillong was relaxed for seven hours today, even as Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said the violence that broke out on Thursday was a local issue and not communal in nature.
A team of Shiromani Akali Dal leaders from Delhi visited the Meghalaya capital in view of the clashes involving residents of the Punjabi Line area and employees of state-run buses belonging to the Khasi community. The Punjab government has also sent a team here.The East Khasi Hills district authorities relaxed the curfew from 8 am to 3 pm to allow churchgoers to attend Sunday services, officials said.
“The problem is very much in a particular locality, on a particular issue. It just happened that two particular communities were involved, but it’s not a communal thing,” Sangma told a press conference here.
The clashes in parts of Shillong were given a communal colour by vested groups and a section of the media outside the state, he said.
A number of those arrested in connection with the violence were from outside East Khasi Hills district, in which Shillong falls, Sangma said.
The chief minister said, “Money and liquor were given to people to indulge in violence. We have evidence of it”.
The authorities were on the job to trace those funding the violence, he said.
Earlier, a SAD team, including MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa and the party’s Delhi unit president Manjit Singh, met the residents of the violence-hit area, and called on Sangma.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in New Delhi that no damage had been caused to any gurdwara or other institutions belonging to the Sikh community in Meghalaya.
The Amarinder Singh government in Punjab also decided to rush a four-member team to the Meghalayan capital.
The team would make a ground assessment of the situation in the troubled areas and extend help to the Sikh community there, an official spokesperson said in Chandigarh.
Sangma had called up the Punjab chief minister on Friday night to apprise him of the situation.
Singh has offered all help to the Meghalaya government in ensuring security to the Dalit Sikhs, whose ancestors were reportedly brought to Shillong during the British era.
Officials told PTI here that the curfew which was promulgated in 14 localities in areas in the Lumdiengjri police station and the Cantonment police beat house will continue.
Night curfew would also continue in the entire city from 10 pm to 5 am for the third consecutive day, and Internet services would remain suspended, the officials said.
The Army, kept on standby, had conducted flag marches in various localities after the violence that left at least 10 people including policemen injured.
The violence erupted after a bus handyman was beaten up by a group of residents of the area on Thursday afternoon.
Trouble escalated when rumours spread on social media that the handyman had succumbed to injuries, prompting a group of bus drivers to converge in the Punjabi Line area. The police had to fire teargas shells to disperse them.
The handyman and three injured persons were taken to a hospital where they were administered first-aid.
Violence occurred in Shillong on Friday and Saturday too. Four people were arrested.
However, tourists were not affected by the violence though they have been enquiring about the situation, Shillong Hoteliers Association president Kishen Tibrewala said.
“I hope the state government will handle the situation in a positive manner and it would become normal soon,” he said adding that the skirmishes could affect tourism in the state.