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Meghalaya govt orders judicial probe into death of ex-militant, extends curfew in Shillong as situation remains tense

After a Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said that the government has decided to extend curfew in Shillong by another 24 hours (till 5 am of August 18), keeping in mind “the overall situation”.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
August 16, 2021 10:04:23 pm
Meanwhile, pictures of damaged vehicles, including a black SUV set ablaze by unknown miscreants, as well as videos of stone-pelting by masked men dressed in black, have been circulating on social media. (File)

A day after violence broke out in Shillong in connection to the death of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, a surrendered militant of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) in a police operation on Friday, the situation in the state Monday remained “tense but under control,” authorities said.

After a Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said that the government has decided to extend curfew in Shillong by another 24 hours (till 5 am of August 18), keeping in mind “the overall situation”. He added that mobile internet services will remain withdrawn for the next 24 hours.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Meghalaya DGP R Chandranathan said that no incidents of violence had been reported on Monday. “The situation is tense but under control. Curfew is in force,” he said, adding that 4 coys of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) had arrived in Shillong.

In a press conference on Monday, Sangma said that his Cabinet has decided to constitute a judicial enquiry into Thangkhiew’s death.

Thangkhiew, 57, was killed in “retaliatory firing” by the police in the wee hours of Friday morning, after the authorities said they had found “clear evidence” of him being involved in an IED blast that injured two in Shillong last week. The police said that when they had gone to arrest him, Thangkhiew attacked them with a knife, in a bid to escape which led the police to fire a single round leading to his death.

Sangma had said that it was “never the intention of the police to harm any individual but the circumstances led to the unfortunate incident.”

Following the incident, tensions have been brewing in the state, with Thangkhiew’s family describing the killing as “cold-blooded murder” and local residents of Mawlai — where Thangkhiew’s home is located — accusing the police of conducting a “fake encounter”.

On Sunday, as hundreds joined Thangkhiew’s funeral procession, incidents of sporadic violence, including arson, vandalism and stone pelting, erupted in Shillong — masked men dressed in black hijacked a police vehicle, drove it around the city waving flags and brandishing arms, and later set it ablaze. At night, two petrol bombs were hurled at Sangma’s private residence in Upper Shillong.

The events had led Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui Sunday to submit his resignation, calling for a judicial probe.

Sources told The Indian Express that the Meghalaya government has not accepted the resignation. Rymbui belongs to the United Democratic Party, which is an ally of Sangma’s National People’s Party in the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government.

In the press conference, Sangma said that he has received Rymbui’s letter but “not made a decision yet”.

“As the chief minister, I have to look at all aspects of the state’s security and overall situation. So, therefore, keeping all these aspects in mind, I will examine and take a decision at the appropriate time,” said Sangma.

About the violence, specifically the torching of the police vehicle, Sangma said it was completely unacceptable — both on the part of the police and the attackers. “The officials who deserted their weapons are suspended,” he said.

Sangma also announced the formation of a “peace committee”, chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, which will co-opt other members from the civil society including religious organisations and other stakeholders. Additionally, a sub-committee for “security and law and order” will look into the different aspects of law and order.

A delegation of leaders from Mawlai had met with Sangma earlier in the day.

“They have put forward their request for a judicial enquiry…the meeting was very positive and they have told us they will do everything in their capacity to ensure that peace returns to Shillong,” said Sangma.

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