| A vehicle damaged in the police-public standoff at Smit on Friday night. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Aug. 18: Meghalaya police are yet to make any arrest following the killings of three members of a family who were accused of being menshohnoh or cutthroats at Smit village in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, around 15km from here, on Friday night.
Yesly Mawthoh, 70, his son D. Nongdhar, 30, and Besly Mawthoh, 65, were hacked to death by a mob for allegedly practising witchcraft on Lambha Nongrum, 25, who was left on the bank of the Umiew river on August 14 with critical injuries.
The bodies of the trio were handed over to their families today after post-mortem. However, as the people of Smit were opposed to bring the bodies to the village, the last rites were performed at a cremation ground in the city today.
According to police, on the night of August 14, Nongrum was assaulted at Smit village. The next morning, villagers found him lying unconscious and he was admitted to Nazareth Hospital.
Though the cause of the assault could not be ascertained, villagers suspect that the incident was a case of witchcraft, the police said.
Menshohnoh are people who are said to worship the supernatural being U Thlen (believed to be a huge serpent requiring appeasement by human sacrifice), in the hope of acquiring wealth.
On Friday night, the victims along with four others went to Nongrum’s house when a mob followed them. They allegedly asked Nongrum’s relatives to hand over Yesly, his son and Besly to them. Subsequently, the three were hacked to death.
When a team from Madanrting police station arrived, villagers numbering around 2,000 tried to prevent the police from taking away the bodies by throwing stones at the policemen.
In the melee, four policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Madanrting police station, C.M. Ranee, were injured. The police also fired teargas shells to control the mob. The situation was finally brought under control around midnight and the police could retrieve the bodies which were then taken to Shillong civil hospital for post-mortem.
“When we arrived at the spot, the people were trying to burn the bodies of the three victims,” an official said adding that the axe which was supposedly used to hack the victims had been recovered.
As the police are investigating into the incident to arrest those who were behind the gruesome killings, the district administration yesterday ordered a magisterial inquiry to be headed by additional district magistrate D.M. Wallang to probe the reasons which led to the murders. The probe is likely to be completed within 14 days.
The Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), a pressure group, has strongly condemned the incident.
“It is evident that people in many villages are frustrated with the justice system and this leaves room for certain individuals to take advantage of igniting the sentiments of the people when it comes to tackling serious and heinous crimes. Certain people wreak vengeance on their enemies by spreading false rumours and flare up the situation for political or personal gains,” CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing said in statement today.
She said injustice was meted out to the three who were killed as they were not even given a chance to be heard. “Mindless killings or torture from any quarters cannot be tolerated in a civilised state and respect for human life should prevail. This is where everyone expects governments to act justly so that such situations do not arise where opportunists take the front seat,” Kharshiing said.
At the same time, she said, the government should seriously take cognisance of cases which are heinous in nature and should sensitise all police stations in the state so that people learn to respect the police and repose faith in them.