| Smit village chief Kynsai Manik Syiem speaks to Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma in Shillong on Monday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Aug. 19: Village elders today asserted that the trio murdered brutally on Friday night at Smit in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district on charges of being menshohnoh or cutthroats had no criminal antecedents.
On Friday night, Yesly Mawthoh, 70, his son D. Nongdhar, 30, and his brother Besly Mawthoh, 65, were hacked to death by a mob for allegedly practising witchcraft on Lambha Nongrum, 25, who was found on the bank of the Umiew river on August 14 with critical injuries.
“There are no records in our village council which would establish that the three persons had indulged in anti-social activities in the past. We are also unaware about the allegations levelled against the trio,” Kynsai Manik Syiem, sordar (chief) of Smit village told reporters here after meeting chief minister Mukul Sangma.
According to police, Nongrum was assaulted in Smit village on the night of August 14 and the next morning, villagers found him lying unconscious and admitted him to Nazareth Hospital.
Though the reason behind the assault could not be ascertained, villagers suspected it to be 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 went to Nongrum’s house along with four others when a mob surrounded them. The mob allegedly asked Nongrum’s relatives to hand the trio over to them and, subsequently, hacked them to death.
Syiem maintained that the rule of law would be followed when the perpetrators were identified. “We will be working together with the police to identify those who were behind the incident,” he said.
He said the mob frenzy was at its peak on Friday night, making it impossible for the village elders to bring the situation under control.
While pointing out to similar incidents in the recent past, Syiem said the need of the hour was to spread awareness among the people against beliefs that lead to unfortunate occurrences. “There is an urgent need to make people understand that they cannot take the law into their own hands,” he added.
In a letter submitted to Sangma, the Smit council asked the government to empower village councils with police and magisterial powers so as to be able to assist the district administration in maintaining law and order.
At the same time, it was suggested that special police response teams be placed at the Madanrting police station, as it covers the whole of Mawkynrew block, and a large part of Mawryngkneng and Mylliem blocks of East Khasi Hills.
The council also wanted the government to review the present terms of reference of village defence parties to enable them to effectively act as first responders while assisting local village councils in controlling mobs.
Condemning the incident, the Mawthoh clan, which met here today, expressed sorrow over the killings.
The clan’s convenor, R. Mawthoh, in a statement, weighed the Smit incident against the case related to Ajmal Kasab.
“If Kasab, who had come to create terror in Mumbai, was put under trial before he was sent to the gallows, then why were the trio not heard or put to trial so that the truth could be unravelled before any decision was taken against them?” he asked.