Shillong, Jan 17 (Agencies): The ethnic clashes along the Assam -Meghalaya border began from a small tiff between two groups of drunken youths belonging to Rabha and Garo communities while celebrating New Year at Manikganj in East Garo Hills district, an official report said.

A verbal confrontation took place between the groups after which the Rabhas allegedly assaulted two boys of the Garo community.

This acted as a catalyst and inflamed passions on communal lines, a status report on the violence prepared by the East Garo Hills administration said.

Giving an account of the incidents as they unfolded each day till January 9, the report pointed at rumours about the incidents on the Assam side which led to unrest in the Meghalaya side.

"The demand for Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council has few takers in the Garo community settled in Goalpara in Assam and as such there are tensions between the two communities and frequent outbreaks of violence," the report said.

"Further, the economic blockades and bandhs called by Rabha bodies are often violent making it difficult for the Garos there and in Meghalaya. During these bandhs, people in
Meghalaya cannot move on the NH37 – which passes through Goalpara - if they have to travel to Guwahati or Shillong."

The report also pointed at several instances of armed clashes during the course of the nine-day violence, besides rumours of involvement of militants.

The administration of Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district has decided not to lift night curfew till confidence- building measures are in place and absolute peace prevails.