Shillong violence: Judicial panel to probe ex-militant’s ‘killing’

Shillong:-The Meghalaya government on Monday ordered a judicial inquiry into a former militant leader’s “killing”, which triggered violence, including stone-pelting and arson in Shillong on Sunday, officials said.

An official said that the state cabinet, in its meeting, decided to constitute a judicial inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act, to look into the events that took place on the morning hours of August 13.

He said that apart from the judicial enquiry, the cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, also decided to set up a peace committee, which would be led by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, with Ministers Hamletson Dohling and Renikton Tongkhar Lyngdoh as members.

“The committee will co-opt other members from the civil society including religious organisations and other stakeholders. At the same time, keeping in mind the overall situation that is still prevailing in Shillong, the cabinet decided that the curfew, which was promulgated on Sunday night, would be extended till 5 a.m. on Wednesday,” the official said.

He said that the ban on mobile internet data services in four districts is also extended for the next 24 hours.

At the cabinet meeting, it was also decided to constitute a sub-committee headed by the Chief Minister to look into the different aspects of law and order. The Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister would be the members of the committee.

Demanding a judicial inquiry into the Shillong violence, Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui had resigned on Sunday night.

In his resignation letter to the Chief Minister, he said that he was shocked at the killing of the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council’s former leader Chesterfield Thangkhiew, following the police raid at his residence “exceeding the lawful tenets of the law”.

A series of violent incidents swept Shillong and its outskirts on Sunday leading to the Independence Day celebrations being held in a very low-key manner.

A police official said that the protesters, who took out protest marches with black flags in Shillong on Sunday, accused the police for “killing Thangkhiew in the name of an encounter” early on Friday.

A mob pelted stones on security forces and the protesting youths drove the police vehicle belonging to the Mawkynroh police outpost around the city with black flags and set it ablaze subsequently.

Police personnel, on board of the vehicle, including the officer-in-charge of the outpost, managed to escape, but the protesters reportedly took away the weapons of the fleeing policemen.

Stones were also hurled at Sangma’s private residence.

The four police personnel from Mawkynroh outpost have been suspended for deserting their vehicle.

“The incident is completely unacceptable. I have asked the senior police officials to inquire into the incident and in what circumstances they left the vehicles,” the Chief Minister said and asked the youths to surrender the weapons snatched from the police men.

Friday’s “encounter” in which Thangkhiew was killed came three days after the HNLC triggered an IED blast at Shillong’s Laitumkhrah market, injuring two persons, including a woman, and damaging nearby buildings.

Following the death of Thangkhiew, who was a founding leader of the HNLC before surrendering to the government in 2018, the Meghalaya Human Right Commission has also taken suo motu cognisance, and asked the Chief Secretary to submit a detailed report on the incident within 15 days, failing which the commission would conduct a probe on its own.

Meanwhile, Assam’s Special Director General of Police G.P. Singh said in Guwahati that in view of the curfew imposed in Shillong, people from Assam are advised not to travel there.