Shillong, Oct. 9: On the morning of May 31, 2009, a jolt awakened the city when seven undertrials, led by Fullmoon Dhar, were reported to have fled from Shillong district jail.
Khrawborlang Marbaniang, Khrawboklang Mawnai, Sankyntiewlang Decruse, Synsharlang Thongni, Ramu Thapa and Wanshailang Jana were the ones who joined Fullmoon to give the city one of the most astounding prison escapes.
However, their freedom was shortlived. The following afternoon, Fullmoon was shot dead in West Jaintia Hills while the remaining escapees, including a facilitator, Hos Sutnga, were arrested from different places in the district.
More than four years after the incident, the inquiry report into the infamous incident was tabled today in the Assembly by chief minister Mukul Sangma.
In the interregnum — May 31, 2009 to October 9, 2013 — two retired judges headed the inquiry commission while a series of theories, allegations, counter-allegations, facts, truths and half-truths on the incident floated around, fuelling speculation.
Pressure groups had also come together to form the Steering Committee Against Murder of Democracy (SCAMOD) to demand from the government to unravel the truth, and nothing but the truth, behind the jailbreak and the subsequent killing of Fullmoon.
Justice (retired) Siba Prasad Rajkhowa prepared a 79-page report, and the same was submitted to the Meghalaya government in January 2013.
Before him, Justice (retired) D. Biswas was heading the inquiry commission from September 2009 to April 2010. Justice Rajkhowa, however, expired a few days after submitting the report.
In all, 27 witnesses were examined before the commission, and thereafter, arguments were heard.
From the accounts of the arrested prisoners, as recorded by the commission, Fullmoon possessed bundles of currency notes, apart from laying his hands on arms, which were brought from outside with the help of some of the jail staff.
The report, quoting Khrawborlang Marbaniang, one of the undertrials, stated that Fullmoon also had access to mobile phones where he reportedly often spoke to his girlfriend and an unnamed “Congress candidate”.
Moreover, the undertrial reported that liquor, meat and cigarettes were brought inside the jail at night after closure of the wards.
On the day of the jailbreak, a guard with a “long weapon” came upstairs and “saluted” Fullmoon on being threatened by the ringleader with a gun, the report stated.
While making its observations as per the terms of reference, the commission pulled up the jail authorities but ruled out any criminal-politician nexus.
“It is proved from the evidence brought on record that there was glaring slackness on the part of the officials of the Shillong district jail. Government may be pleased to overhaul the entire staff, including the director general (prisons), with strict instructions that the provisions of the jail manual are followed without any lapses in letter and spirit,” the report said.
Other observations include the circumstances and events leading to the death of Fullmoon, criminal-politician nexus, and arrest and subsequent release of Thomas Nongtdu. (See chart)
“Learned counsel for the SCAMOD tried her best to prove the existence of a nexus between politicians and criminals in the events leading to the jailbreak. However, (there is) no cogent evidence to give a definite finding that there was a nexus between politicians and criminals leading to the jailbreak. Even if the learned counsel had some unassailable evidence in her kitty, she did not disclose it before the commission,” the report further noted.
Acting on the recommendations of the commission, the government issued directions to the home (prisons) department, which include overhauling the entire staff including the director general (prisons), initiating departmental inquiry against all jail officials responsible for the lapses that led to the jailbreak and others.
The Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), which is part of SCAMOD, has strongly reacted to the commission report. It said that the report was fit to be “torn”.
“We are not surprised with the tampered report, especially when it took the government nine months to place the report in the House. We will approach the high court seeking a full CBI inquiry, as the report is definitely a tampered one, and would shame any judge making such a report and it is fit to be torn,” CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing said in a statement.
She also pointed out various errors in the report, including grammatical mistakes.
Kharshiing said it is no surprise to the CSWO that the “people in governance have tampered” with it. “They fail to realise that though Fullmoon is dead, the perpetrators are still alive and they can create 10 more Fullmoons. The very fact that the government kept the report on hold for nine months after its release, and to skip placing it in the first Assembly session, and then come out with a report, naming the wrong undertrials who fled, shows that this report was definitely tampered with,” she asserted.