Tura, May 28: A suspected overground worker of the militant Garo National Liberation Army today died in police lock-up at Chokpot in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
The death of Witson M. Sangma, 28, who was arrested yesterday, has triggered protests in the remote town, 60km from here. People shouted anti-police slogans outside the police station for over an hour.
South Garo Hills deputy commissioner Chinmoy Gotmore, who he is on medical leave, was not available for comment. His subordinate, T.G. Momin, who holds the charge of additional deputy commissioner, could not be reached either.
Chief Opposition whip James K. Sangma said, “We are tired of assurances given by the chief minister. Yet another custodial death points to the fact that there is something seriously wrong in the policing system. It is high time for the government to introspect and admit its mistakes.”
On May 20, undertrial prisoner Balsan S. Marak, 20, had died in a government hospital in Tura. He was arrested on May 13 in connection with illegal confinement and torture of 12 women by “activists”, who are now in judicial custody.
Five women activists and four men, including Balsan and a minor, were arrested in connection with the case. The minor, son of activist Jaynie Ningring Sangma, was released on bail last Friday. His case is being dealt under the Juvenile Act.
Sangma said the Opposition would raise the issue of Balsan’s custodial death in the Assembly session beginning June 6. He said the Opposition would seek a reply from the government on the sordid law and order situation in Garo hills.
Balsan’s death has become a major issue with several NGOs rejecting the magisterial probe ordered by the deputy commissioner of West Garo Hills in accordance with NHRC guidelines and seeking a judicial probe.
The NGOs have served a seven-day ultimate to chief minister Mukul Sangma, which expires on Friday. They have threatened a series of agitations if the government fails to institute the judicial probe.
The government has constituted a high-level probe headed by commissioner of division (Garo hills), Peter J. Ingty.
Inspector-general of police (law and order) G.H.P. Raju requested the public and NGOs to have faith in the institutional mechanism devised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to deal with cases of custodial deaths.
“NHRC guidelines are sacrosanct and shall be adhered to in letter and spirit. The public and NGOs should refrain from taking law in their own hands or cause misery to people by resorting to bandhs,” he said and added that any agitation by people and NGOs would strengthen the hands of militant groups.