Shillong: An argument over the appointment of a priest at the nearly 500-year-old Nartiang Durga temple in Jowai district of Meghalaya led to a scuffle between the villagers and the police in the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday. The scuffle reportedly left 40 injured including several policemen. ASP P Syiem, who tried to intervene, was also hurt and was rushed to the Jowai Civil Hospital, as per reports.

Apart from the villagers and the police personnel, several civilians as well as journalists who were witness to the incident were also injured in the skirmish.

The scuffle reportedly broke out when the police tried to resolve the issue over the conducting of puja rituals at the temple. As per reports, the rituals were set to be performed by a descendant of the priest’s family, identified as Oni Muskut Deshmukhbut, but confusion erupted when the village headman brought in another priest.

The devotees were reportedly lathi-charged by the police, to which the villagers responded by pelting stones and burning firewood. About 40 people were injured in the ensuing scuffle.

With emotions running high, the district magistrate has ordered the imposition of Section 144 in the area, restricting the gathering of more than five persons and carrying of weapons within 200 m radius of the temple. Police have also been deployed around the temple area.

Meanwhile, the police escorted the newly-appointed priest, Swappon Bhattacharjee, to the temple.

The Nartiang Durga temple, also known as the Jayantee Ma Mandir, has been in the news for quite some time now. In August, the district administration had to temporarily shut down the temple following similar clashes.

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