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Tura/Shillong May 20: Balsan Marak, 20, an accused in a torture case, died today at Tura civil hospital. He was in 14-day judicial custody, along with four other men who were arrested on May 13.
Marak was admitted to the hospital last evening because of body ache, fever, elbow pain and ear infection.
Replying to allegations that the accused was tortured in police custody leading to his death, the district police chief ruled out torture.
Reacting to the incident, the Meghalaya government constituted a one-man inquiry to be headed by commissioner of division (Garo hills) Peter W. Ingty.
According to an official communiqué, Ingty will ascertain the circumstances of death through medical and other related evidence, both factual and circumstantial, the role of the police, if any, which could have led to the death of Marak in custody, keeping in mind some allegations made, or any other matter connected with the inquiry.
Ingty has been given 30 days’ time to complete the inquiry. At the same time, the state government appealed to all the citizens in Garo hills to assist the law-enforcing machinery in the discharge of its obligations, and to maintain peace and harmony in the area.
Five “activists” were arrested on May 9 for illegal confinement, kidnapping and torture of 12 women, who were held captive for eight days at the rented residence of Jaynie Ningring N. Sangma at Danakgre, on the outskirts of Tura town.
The five activists are — Jaynie Ningring N. Sangma, 37, Babiana M. Sangma, 42, Merryln D. Shira, 52, Konica S. Sangma, 37, and Lonavi R. Sangma, 34.
In connection with the case, five other men, including Marak, were arrested on May 13 on charges of abetment, criminal intimidation and influencing one of the victims, who is six months pregnant. One among them is a minor son of Jaynie. His case is being dealt in accordance with laws for juveniles.
Marak’s mother Mina S. Marak said: “My son died because of police torture. He was innocent. He was arrested as he was found with Jaynie’s son. He had no role whatsoever in the case. He had returned on May 13 from Nongalbibra and was not aware of the case, and he accompanied Jaynie’s son on his request,” said Mina.
West Garo Hills superintendent of police Mukesh Singh said, “Balsan was arrested as we received an FIR from one of the victims on May 13. The allegation of torture is absolutely false. He had week-old injuries on his left forearm and the medical report clearly stated that he was not able to move his arm.”
He also showed medical reports to mediapersons. “Balsan had confessed to the crime. We have recorded his statement. If there is a need, we are willing to show the video as well,” said Singh.
The accused was referred to the civil hospital on two occasions – first on May 17 and second on May 19 by the jail medical officer, Dr B.C. Paul, for high fever and ear ailment.
“During screening of the accused on May 14, we found that Balsan was having an ear problem. He had injuries on his left elbow and forearm”, said district jail superintendent J.J. Sangma.
“On May 17, I had referred Balsan to the civil hospital as he had fever, ear problem and orthopaedic complication. He was not admitted but was given medical aid and medicines for his problem. We don’t have lab facilities, so we have to depend on the civil hospital,” said Paul.
Yesterday he was once again referred to the hospital for fever. “He was looking ill and could not take food and was vomiting as well. We administered IV fluid. His fever was recorded 101 degrees Fahrenheit, blood pressure 100/60”, said Paul.
Superintendent of Tura civil hospital, Menakshi A. Sangma, said, “He was stable yesterday. His blood pressure was 100/70 and body temperature 99 degrees Fahrenheit. He vomited this morning. Attendants said he took a bath early morning and his condition deteriorated. He was taken for observation at 7.25am and declared dead at 8.20am. The post-mortem is being conducted.”