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HNLC leader encounter death: Meghalaya orders judicial probe

Curfew extended in Shillong by another 24 hours till 5 am of August 18; mobile internet services will also remain withdrawn for the next 24 hours
Conrad K. Sangma
Conrad K. Sangma
File picture

Our Bureau, PTI   |   Shillong   |   Published 16.08.21, 10:30 PM

The Meghalaya government announced a judicial investigation into the encounter killing of a former militant leader whose supporters committed vandalism and arson on Independence Day, forcing the administration to clamp curfew in state capital Shillong where the situation is peaceful on Monday.

The government will set up a peace committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong comprising representatives of civil society organisations and others as members, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said after an emergent cabinet meeting.

The government also decided to extend curfew in Shillong by another 24 hours till 5 am of August 18. Mobile internet services will also remain withdrawn for the next 24 hours, he said.

“Based on the suggestion of the members, the cabinet has decided to institute a judicial inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act to look into the events that took place on August 13,” Sangma said. The chief minister, however, did not name the judge who will probe the August 13 encounter death of 54-year-old Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, the former self-styled general secretary of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

The Ministry of Home Affairs has approved deployment of additional central armed paramilitary forces (CAPFs) to assist the state in containing the law and order situation in the state capital. “I have spoken to Union Home Minister Amit Shah twice yesterday on the law and order situation. Five additional companies of CAPFs have been requisitioned and four have already arrived,” Sangma said in a video statement.

Two companies of Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force each have reached the state. The deputy CM headed peace committee will also have cabinet ministers H Dohling and R Tongkhar. "The committee will co-opt members from civil societies, religious organisations, community heads, etc," Sangma said.

"There will also be a Sub-Committee for Security & Law & Order headed by the Chief Minister, Sh. @SangmaConrad with Deputy CM & Home Minister as members to look into aspects of law & order, possible future threats & overall functioning of @MeghalayaPolice," he tweeted later.

Although Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui has resigned on Sunday amid violence in Shillong “to allow a free and fair probe into the killing”, the chief minister is learnt to have not accepted his resignation.

Rymbui belongs to the United Democratic Party, an ally of the National People’s Party headed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government. Rymbui and his party had urged the chief minister to announce a judicial probe into the killing of Thangkhiew who had surrendered in 2018.

The state BJP has condoled the death of Thangkhiew. "I on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Meghalaya Pradesh. I understand the family lost a father, which is irreplaceable and has left a vacuum to the family," BJP state president Ernest Mawrie said in a condolence message on Sunday.

Thangkhiew was shot dead on August 13 when he allegedly tried to attack a police team with a knife during a raid at his house in connection with a series of IED blasts in the state.

Arson and vandalism were reported from Jaiaw and Mawalai areas of Shillong on Independence Day when the former militant leader’s funeral took place. Unidentified miscreants hurled petrol bombs at the private residence of the chief minister at Third Mile area of Upper Shillong on Sunday night but no one was injured.

He was at his official Polo Hills residence at that time. A few hours later, a CRPF vehicle proceeding to control the situation came under attack by a mob who were burning tyres on a road at Mawlai.

Two police vehicles were also torched at the two affected areas on Sunday night. However, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere of the state capital till the evening on Monday. “The situation in the state capital remained peaceful today. It is under control,” a senior home department official told PTI.

The Meghalaya Human Rights Commission had on Sunday directed Chief Secretary MS Rao to furnish a detailed report on Thangkhiew’s death within 15 days.

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