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Meghalaya Police ‘recklessly’ shot former militant: Judicial Commission

Thangkhiew was killed on August 13, 2021, during a police raid on his house at Mawlai Kynton Massar locality in the state capital.

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Shillong: A commission of inquiry, in its report tabled in the Meghalaya Assembly on Friday, has said Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, the surrendered general secretary of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was killed in a “reckless operation using excessive force” by the police,

The one-man commission of inquiry was presided over by retired judge T. Vaiphei.

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Thangkhiew was killed on August 13, 2021, during a police raid on his house at Mawlai Kynton Massar locality in the state capital.

The police had claimed the former extremist was shot in self-defence after he tried to stab them. Thangkhiew’s death had led to widespread violence with a mob setting vehicles on fire and brandishing firearms snatched from the police.

In his 28-page report, Vaiphei said, “The operation was a well-laid plan, but executed poorly, recklessly, hastily and without proper application of mind. In other words, it was a botched-up operation and failing in its objective of apprehending the deceased alive, who would have given valuable information to the police about the subversive activities of the proscribed HNLC outfit”.

The Commission found that the Tactical Team- I of the Meghalaya police in carrying out the operation to arrest the former HNLC militant from his residence was “culpable of thoughtlessness and excessive use of force” which resulted in Thangkhiew’s death.

The Commission, however, said there was sufficient intelligence input to apprehend Thangkhiew or raid his residence, for which the police “cannot be faulted”/ He was allegedly involved in extortion, criminal and subversive activities.

“Having entered what could potentially be a lion’s den in darkness without proper planning and without taking adequate precaution”, the police had taken “purely avoidable and unnecessary risk” endangering their lives as well as that of the deceased, the report said.  

“The forced entry into the house of the deceased (Thangkhiew) in darkness and the subsequent killing of the deceased was a reckless exercise and tantamount to a disproportionate use of force and defeated the very purpose of launching the operation, namely, to capture him (Thangkhiew) alive,” the report said.

“The culpability of the Tactical Team- I of the Meghalaya police in the manner in which they carried out the operations is best left to the jurisdictional criminal court to decide,” the report said.

In the aftermath of the operation, the commission recommended several measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future. Among these, the commission said raiding a residential house at night should be avoided so that innocent occupants are not harmed.

The Vaiphei commission further recommended that police should use night vision devices, and tear gas grenades while raiding residential houses. It also suggested sensitising the police on human rights and making it mandatory that an ambulance is part of the police team when such raids are conducted in urban areas.

Meanwhile, Thangkhiew’s brother Granary Starfield Thangkhiew demanded action against those involved in the killing of the former militant leader.

“The government should now register a case against those police personnel involved in killing my brother (Thangkhiew). The government must also hand over the case to the CBI for further investigation,” Granary told reporters.

“If the government fails to take action we will also decide our next move accordingly,” he said.

Earlier, members of Sur Ka Bri U Hynniewtrep (Voice of Hynniewtrep People) rejected the Vaiphei commission’s report, ad attempted to march towards the assembly to mount pressure on the government to take action against those involved in Thangkhiew’s killing. .

“We reject the report. We will hold discussions with the family members of Thangkhiew on our next course of action,” Donboklang Kharlyngdoh said. 

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