The opposition today blamed the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government for exercising too much control over the state police.
Nongkrem MLA Ardent M Basaiawmoit led the charge, saying that the police must have been ordered to deliberately kill former militant leader Cheristerfield Thangkhiew in August 2021.
“I’m sure that no police personnel would have the courage to kill a person if no order was given (to do so),” Basaiawmoit said in the Assembly today. “This is a complete failure of those at the helm of affairs and they must take the responsibility. The blood is on the hands of MDA 1.”
Thangkhiew was suspected by police of working again with the banned Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) in planting explosive devices in Shillong and Khliehriat. Police then led a raid on his home in Mawlai on the night of August 13, 2021 and shot him dead, claiming that he had attacked the police with a knife.
His death led to several days of instability as Mawlai (one of the four Assemblyl seats that the VPP won in this year’s election) seethed, which only ended when the government promised an inquiry. The Justice Vaiphei report submitted last year was highly critical of the police’s approach to the raid but stopped short of making any recommendation against the police personnel involved in the “botched operation”.
“What action has been taken as a follow-up of the report? You have to come clean and, in the process, I don’t want you to find a scapegoat and fix the responsibility on them,” Basaiawmoit said, adding that he could not believe that the same police force that all but ended militancy in the state could not capture alive an invalid (as he was before his death) like Thangkhiew.
“I am sure if the police department was given a free hand to deal with this specific case the former general secretary of the HNLC would have been caught alive. I have full trust in the police personnel of the state,” Basaiawmoit added.
The Congress Party’s Umsning MLA, Dr Celestine Lyngdoh, also said that the police are highly capable when it comes to regulating traffic but are being hampered in their more serious duties.
“My appeal is to set the hands of the police force free and let them do their job,” he said.
In response, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, who is charge of the Home Department, said that the government will take action based on the recommendations of the inquiry into Thangkiew’s death.
“We have received the explanation just a few weeks back and now the government will examine in detail what to do next and what action should be taken,” Tynsong said. “It is not that we want to delay things.”
Meanwhile, he strenuously defended the police force by saying that it is completely capable of handling all aspects of law and order in Meghalaya. Recently, the High Court ordered that the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is usually deployed to protect airports and other vital infrastructure, be used to curb the illegal transport of coal in the state.
Basaiawmoit described this as a loss of confidence in the performance of the police force but Tynsong, while declining to comment on the High Court ruling, said that argued that the state police are “capable enough” and “equipped enough to handle things in the state”.
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