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Garo leader ‘tortured’ to death in Bangla

Shillong, April 3: A Bangladesh-based Garo tribal leader, Chalesh Ritchil, the Medha Patkar of the Modhupur reserve forest — was allegedly killed by “joint forces” comprising the army, Bangladesh Rifles and police two weeks back.

Today, the Asian Centre for Human Rights, which has made the claim, appealed to the Meghalaya government to take up the incident with the Union ministry of external affairs.

The rights panel has also appealed to the heads of the delegations participating in the 14th Saarc summit to look into the matter.

The Garo leader’s death was reportedly kept under wraps by Bangladesh police until several NGOs in Bangladesh and the indigenous tribal population of Modhupur, which includes Garos and Khasis, rose in revolt.

Sources in Bangladesh said the Garo leader was “brutally killed” by the joint forces, for “leading a campaign against the construction of an eco-park” which would have led to the eviction of 25,000 indigenous Garos and Khasis who have been living in the area for over 300 years.

After the declaration of emergency in Bangladesh, forest department officials restarted the construction of the controversial boundary wall for the eco-park. The Garo community, under Ritchil’s leadership, protested again.

On March 18, Ritchil was arrested by plainclothes security personnel from Kalibari under Muktagacha subdivision. A day later his body, with “torture marks”, was handed over to family members.

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