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Split-second murder: Kin

Jospin’s husband Abel A Sangma and their children stand near her grave on Thursday. Picture by Saidul Khan

Raja Ronggat (Meghalaya), June 5: The FIR on the murder of Jospin M. Sangma, the mother of four whose head was blown off by militants in Meghalaya on Tuesday evening, does not mention the rape attempt police have been citing since yesterday.

The husband — possibly the sole adult eyewitness — and the mother of the victim suggested that the execution-style murder was so swift that there was no attempt to sexually assault Jospin, who is mentioned as “Josbina” in police records.

Ganjak M. Sangma, the victim’s mother whose oral account was the basis of the FIR, indicated that her complaint did not include the rape attempt charge.

Asked if she had mentioned the rape attempt, Ganjak told The Telegraph: “I had told the police that they (the militants) called my daughter, asked her to sit in a chair and then shot her.”

Ganjak was not an eyewitness as she lives at some distance from her daughter’s home in Raja Ronggat village near Chokpot, around 400km from Shillong.

But Jospin’s husband Abel A. Sangma said he was an eyewitness to the murder as he was not locked up by the militants — as the police had suggested yesterday.

“In a fraction of a second, they shot her and fled. I was helplessly watching it,” Abel said today, standing beside the grave of his wife and weeping intermittently.

The cold-blooded murder in itself was gruesome and a defiant declaration by a militant outfit that the woman was “eliminated” because she was a “police source” — a misnomer as all citizens are expected to cooperate with the police — was a direct threat to the rule of law.

But by laying stress on the claim that the woman was shot when she had resisted a rape attempt, the police appear to have shifted the focus away from the savagery and the grave questions the execution raises.

With the rape-bid claim coming under stress now, the police may have unwittingly gifted the militants a public relations windfall in a region that was already restive over the custody death of an overground worker of the militant outfit, the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).

It is not unusual for individuals to come under pressure and threats in militant-affected areas, which may force them to hold back information or revise it. But the family did not show any sign that it was speaking under duress today.

Besides, the FIR, registered in the presence of the police, echoes what the victim’s mother told this correspondent. According to the FIR, two militants came to the woman’s house, asked her to sit on a chair, accused of her being a police collaborator and shot her straightaway.

Photographs had shown Jospin slumped in a chair with a gaping wound in her head.

The account by Abel, the victim’s husband, matched that of Jospin’s mother.

Abel said: “Two armed men came to our tea shop at around 6pm, searching for my wife. (The house doubles as a tea shop.) I told them that she was outside playing with the children. They asked for my mobile, I replied that I don’t own a mobile. They went out and asked my wife why she had informed the police of their activities. I was looking at her as she replied that she had not reported anything to the police. In a fraction of a second, they shot her and fled. I was helplessly watching it.”

He added: “One of them fired once and left as my children screamed and shouted, ‘Aama dongja ha (mother is no more)’.”

Yesterday, a statement attributed to the GNLA had claimed that the victim was a “police source” and its “cadres were on a mission to eliminate this woman”. “She fled away but on the 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,” the statement had said.

Inspector-general of police (operations) G.H.P. Raju had said yesterday: “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.”

Asked about the discrepancies, the South Garo Hills superintendent of police, Lakador Syiem, said today: “Our initial investigation, based on the statement of the children, was that the militants were embracing their mother and made advances to kiss her. The act is molestation. In fact, our sources had confirmed it to be molestation.”

The officer declined to disclose the identity of the sources. Raju could not be contacted for comment after this correspondent spoke to Jospin’s family.

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