| Chokpot legislator Clifford R. Marak at the Assembly on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, June 10: Nearly nine years after four persons died in police firing in Tura, the Meghalaya Opposition today wondered whether justice would ever be meted out to the dead.
Nine persons, most of them students, were killed when police opened fire on a gathering at Chandmari playground in Tura of West Garo Hills and Rongrenggiri playground in Williamnagar of East Garo Hills districts on September 30, 2005 to protest against the state government’s stand on restructuring the Meghalaya Board of School Education.
While the report of the Tura inquiry commission fixed responsibility on some officials, including the police personnel for the firing, the Williamnagar commission held NGOs in Garo hills responsible for causing a “riot”, resulting in the police firing.
The then West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Lutherine R. Sangma is now the chairperson of the Meghalaya Public Service Commission (MPSC). The Tura firing was probed by Justice (retd) D.N. Chowdhury while Justice (retd) D.N. Baruah investigated the Williamnagar firing.
But nearly nine years later, the issue resurfaced. South Tura legislator John Leslee K. Sangma, who was present at the Chandmari playground when the firing took place, today vividly recollected the incident in the Meghalaya Assembly.
Taking part in a motion moved by Chokpot legislator Clifford R. Marak, Sangma said the September 30, 2005 would also go down in history as “black Friday” because the use of “brutal force” had killed four and injured many.
“We want to know what has happened to that inquiry. What action has been taken? The government is spending a huge amount of money on inquiry commissions only to buy time, appease the people, make the files collect dust and forget about them altogether,” Sangma said. Sangma, who was the then member of the district council, said the incident was a “plain massacre” where the police went “ballistic at the drop of a hat”.
“I am very angry and frustrated. How can we as legislators tolerate violation of human rights? When innocent children are gunned down, we have all the power, but when it comes to the real fight, we are at the losing end,” he added. By “real fight”, the legislator indicated the fight against militant outfits.
Lambasting the government, he said, “It is very shameful that those officers who were held culpable for the incident by the inquiry commission have been promoted. Some of them are indulging in rampant corruption until today.” Earlier, Marak likened the Meghalaya government to the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh, and demanded that action be taken against the officers.
Replying to the motion, chief minister Mukul Sangma clarified that following the inquiry report, the government had drawn up departmental proceedings against the officers, but they were not found guilty.
“It is not a fact that the government has not acted on the findings of the inquiry commission. It is also not correct that the government is not inclined to give justice. Departmental proceedings, headed by a senior officer, were drawn up against the officers. The officers were also given opportunity to defend themselves, and they were not found guilty,” he said. The chief minister also recalled that when he was in the Opposition in 2008, he had sought a reply from the then non-Congress government on the MBOSE issue.
“As per the replies, no measures were adopted by the state government to bifurcate MBOSE,” he said. Stating that the incident was “painful”, the chief minister said it was time to move on and allow the wounds to heal.