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NGOs spurn Mukul assurance

- Several bodies protest custodial death

Tura, May 27: A conglomeration of NGOs, led by Garo Students Union and North East Students Organisation, today rejected Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma’s assurance to initiate a free and fair probe into the custodial death of Balsan Marak.

It has demanded Rs 50 lakh as compensation for the bereaved family and an independent medical professional to conduct the post-mortem.

The NGOs are sticking to their demand of judicial probe into Balsan’s death. “It is a delaying tactic. We will continue to press the government for a judicial probe. If it fails to give us a convincing reply within seven days, we will step up agitation for Balsan Marak’s justice (sic),” said GSU president Tengsak G. Momin.

Sangma had assured NGOs yesterday that his government would accord the highest priority to their demands.

Balsan, an undertrial prisoner, had died in a government hospital on May 20.

The state government has constituted a high-level probe headed by commissioner of division (Garo hills) Peter J. Ingty and a magisterial probe has also been ordered by the deputy commissioner of West Garo Hills.

“We don’t have faith in the magisterial probe. It can be manipulated. We will continue to demand for a judicial probe,” said Momin.

At the public meeting held at Chandmari playground around 3.30pm today, at least 1,000 people, mostly youths, attended to express solidarity on the issue.

The inclement weather did not deter their spirits, as they patiently waited for about one-and-a-half hours, listening to different NGO leaders.

Questioning the version of the medical officer, B.C. Paul of Tura district jail, an activist of Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, Pritam Marak, said, “Balsan Marak was arrested on May 12 and not May 13 as claimed by police. The police are trying to cover up the case and even misleading the media. We have seen severe bruise marks on his body. If Balsan was arrested on May 13 as claimed by the police, why was medical examination conducted on May 14 and not the previous day, why the delay?”

The NGOs have asked the public to be prepared to continue their campaign.

In the wake of the custodial death, several NGOs are demanding psychological counselling cells at police stations.

They have also demanded that those involved in the assault, which led to the death of Balsan, be immediately suspended and terminated. They also demanded departmental action and contempt of court proceedings against those who failed to follow the directives.

They have also demanded installation of CCTVs in all the rooms at police stations with recording facility, so that police personnel cannot “callously” torture inmates or prisoners.

Balsan and two others were arrested on May 13 based on an FIR filed by a victim in an illegal confinement case.