At least six vehicles, four belonging to the government, were torched while police picked up five suspected student activists as stray incidents of violence marred the first night of the road blockade called by Khasi Students Union (KSU) protesting against the proposed uranium mining project.
Unidentified miscreants burnt two vehicles near Mairang in West Khasi Hills district and one each in Ri Bhoi, Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills districts since last night.
Acting DGP B Kezo told reporters that five youths were detained in connection with the incidents.
He said additional security personnel, including paramilitary troops, were deployed in the state to prevent untoward incidents during the blockade hours that resume from 9 pm tonight.
Regular traffic on the highways was hit during the first night of the blockade.
Reports from Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills districts said the traffic along the highways thinned after 7 pm last evening. The response was mixed in Jaintia Hills district.
The few vehicles, especially trucks, plying on NH 40 and 44 were provided police escort, officials said, adding security personnel were patrolling the highways to prevent any untoward incident.
Movement of trucks and night buses to Mizoram and Tripura from Assam via Meghalaya was severely hit even as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in parts of the state to ensure that the blockade did not affect normal life.
The two-day night blockade will resume at 9 pm today and continue till 5 am on Friday.
KSU is protesting the state government’s decision to lease 422 hectares land to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in the uranium-rich areas of the state for pre-project developmental works. The students’ body contends that the project would lead to severe health hazards besides impacting the environment.
Lapang-led cabinet has leased out 422 sq hectares of land having uranium deposits in West Khasi Hills for 30 years to UCIL for ‘pre-project’ development works. UCIL had agreed to earmark Rs 209 crore to carry out pre-project development programmes, including health care facilities, power, drinking water, educational institutions and roads.
The mining issue in Meghalaya has been hanging fire for more than two decades now with some prominent NGOs and political parties vehemently opposed to the proposal on the grounds that it would lead to degradation of the environment besides opening the floodgates for outsiders into the tribal state.