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Vehicles torched in KSU blockade

Shillong, Oct. 15: Stray incidents of arson marred the first of the two night road blockade called by the Khasi Students Union in four districts of Meghalaya in protest against the cabinet’s decision to allow pre-development projects in uranium sites of West Khasi Hills.

Unidentified youths torched five government vehicles since last night, taking the toll in such incidents to six since the KSU announced the blockade.

A transport department vehicle was torched at Mawlai Umthumthum here around 9.15 this morning, a mini truck belonging to veterinary department was set ablazearound 1.30am at Kyrdemkulai in Ri Bhoi district and a government vehicle belonging to Power Grid was burntat Khliehriat in the Jaintia Hills at midnight. Two jeeps belonging to veterinary and block development offices were torched at Mairang in West Khasi Hills last night.

A vehicle belonging to the health department was torched yesterday afternoon even before the blockade began at 7pm.

Pelting of stones on vehicles and burning of tyres on roads were also reported from various parts of the state.

Traffic on the highways was affected in Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills. The response was mixed in Jaintia Hills. A few vehicles plying on NH 40 and 44 were provided police escort. Movement of trucks and night buses to Mizoram and Tripura from Assam via Meghalaya was hit though prohibitory orders were imposed in parts of the state to ensure normality.

The home department deployed 200 additional personnel last night, besides the existing police and CRPF forces, to patrol the sensitive areas of Mawlai, Jaiaw and Nongthymmai, the police said.

East Khasi Hills superintendent of police L.B. Rapthap said despite a few stray incidents of arson and stone pelting at vehicles, the first night of the blockade organised by the KSU passed off peacefully.

He said a Guwahati-bound truck, on which stones were pelted, lost control and dashed against a wall at Mawlai Umthlong here.

Meghalaya acting director-general of police B. Kezo said four KSU activists have been picked up so far — two from Jaintia Hills and two from Shillong.

A state home department official said the police had been asked to beef up security further. “We want to ensure that the people of neighbouring states like Assam, Tripura and Mizoram do not suffer due to the night road blockade.”

The KSU had called the blockade from 7pm yesterday to 5am today and from 9pm today till 5am tomorrow in East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri Bhoi districts.

The chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, told reporters here that Delhi should hold “intense dialogue with the local people, get their consent and then take up uranium mining project” in the state, reports PTI.

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