Although he is not in any way the first Meghalaya legislator to have been accused of a serious crime, the unopposed election of North Tura MLA Thomas A Sangma to the hallowed Speaker’s chair in the incoming Assembly has not been easy for many to swallow.
Sangma was the only one of the 59 MLAs in the house to file nomination papers to be the Speaker of the incoming Assembly and was thus elected unopposed today.
However, he stands accused of multiple counts of rape against the same woman. An FIR in this regard was registered against him in June 2021. The woman accused the MLA of raping her on multiple occasions in Shillong from January 2020 to April 2021 at her residence or in a city hotel “on the pretext of marriage”. The victim also claimed, at the time, to be pregnant with his child. Sangma is already married and has denied the charges. Questioned about his high profile role in the National People’s Party (NPP) even after the charges were made, his colleagues would answer that he is innocent until proven guilty and the law must take its own course.
Sangma had to disclose the accusation against him in his affidavit prior to the election. In it, he states that there is a case in this regard in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate in Shillong but that no charges have been filed. Apart from the allegation of “rape repeatedly on the same woman”, there is also the accusation of criminal intimidation against him in the same case.
Sangma’s nomination as Speaker was practically the first official decision taken by the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance 2 government.
However, while innocent as the charges have not been proven, critics of the decision are aghast that the occupant of such an important office of state could have such a serious charge hanging over him. Having the accused still wielding enormous political power could make it difficult for the truth to come out into the open, it is feared.
The victim has been trolled on social media no end by people who dismissed her FIR and rape allegations by pointing out that this was nothing but consensual sex and not rape. She had also filed FIRs against her online tormentors but, except for one, police claimed they could not locate the others.
Probably worn out by the enormous pressure she has faced, the case has not made much progress after she changed her original lawyer. Sangma secured bail in court and this was at first challenged in the Meghalaya High Court but the challenge was later withdrawn.
Interestingly, Ampareen Lyngdoh, when she was still in the opposition, demanded (as chairperson of the Assembly committee on women’s empowerment) that Sangma be removed from all his committee positions. However, this was not carried through and now Ampareen has joined the NPP.
In a letter to the then Speaker, Metbah Lyngdoh, Ampareen had said “that when a serious accusation of this nature arises against a member of this honourable Assembly, it shocks the conscience of the society and puts a huge expectation on the representatives of the people to ensure that principles of accountability are held in utmost regard.”
She had also pointed out that there was a precedent for the removal of Sangma from the Assembly committees as it was done in 2017 when another member was accused of sexual assault.
Leave a Reply