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Head blown off in retribution
Police cite rape bid, rebels say informer

Tura, June 4: A woman’s head was blown off in front of her children by militants in the South Garo Hills of Meghalaya, police said today, prompting the Centre to send 1,000 paramilitary troops to the state.

The police said the 35-year-old woman was shot dead when she resisted attempts to sexually assault her but added that the allegation was based on the complaint of her mother who did not appear to have been at the site when the murder took place.

An officer said the mother could have drawn up the complaint on the basis of the accounts by the four children, the eldest of whom is aged 10.

A statement attributed to the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) later confirmed that its cadres carried out the murder and claimed that the woman was “a police source”.

The victim has been identified as Josbina Sangma, 35, a resident of Raja Goera Rongat, a militancy-affected region near Chokpot, around 400km from Shillong.

The allegation of the rape attempt appeared to dominate initial media reports but the murder in itself sent shock waves through the state — known for its matrilineal system that empowers women —and the region. Several citizens took to social media to condemn the atrocity.

But the GNLA statement asserted that none responsible for the death of its cadres would be spared.

“The GNLA has verified and confirmed that woman was the police source and she was responsible for the death of our training instructor Kram. These command comprising group of cadres were on a mission to eliminate this woman. She fled away but on fateful day she came back and got executed. The GNLA shall never spare anyone if he or she is responsible for the death of our cadres,” said the statement attributed to Bikdot Nikjang Marak, the political affairs secretary of the organisation.

Kram was killed in an encounter last month, and the region was on the boil for the past week after an overground GNLA worker died in police custody. Night curfew — from 7pm to 5am — has been in place in Chokpot since May 28.

Inspector-general of police (operations) G.H.P. Raju said Josbina was at home with her husband and four children when an armed group entered the house around 6 last evening.

“The militants pulled the woman out and locked her husband in the house. They tried to rape her in the presence of her four minor children. When she resisted, they fired five to six shots in her head with AK rifles from point blank range. Her head was completely blown off. It is a gruesome murder of an innocent lady,” the IG said.

He said the murder was the handiwork of the GNLA, led by its Chokpot area commander Kiljang R. Sangma, adding that the organisation had “branded the family as police informers”.

South Garo Hills superintendent of police Lakador Syiem said combing operations were on. Late tonight, the Union home ministry decided to rush five companies of the BSF and five companies of the CRPF to Meghalaya.

Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal, said the forces were being sent following a request by Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma.

SP Syiem said the police had received unconfirmed reports about the woman’s murder around 7.30pm yesterday but could not go out to verify it at night as intelligence inputs had suggested that GNLA militants were lying in wait to attack police personnel.

He said the incident was confirmed by Chokpot police station after Josbina’s mother and other relatives came to the police station around 6.30 this morning.


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