Thursday, October 6, 2022

M’laya Police botched up: Commission on killing of HNLC leader

Correspondent

The report of the one-man commission of inquiry by retired judge T. Vaiphei, which was tabled on the floor of the house on the first day of the autumn session of the Meghalaya Assembly on Friday, has stated that 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.
Thangkhiew was killed on August 13, 2021 during a police raid in 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 an angry 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 order 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 into the death of Thangkhiew.
The Commission, however, said that there was sufficient intelligence input to apprehend Thangkhiew or raid his residence, which the police “cannot be faulted” for his alleged involvement 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 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 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 use night vision devices, tear gas grenades while raiding residential houses, sensitize the police on human rights and make it mandatory that an ambulance is part of the police team when such raids are conducted in urban areas.
Meanwhile, the Thangkhiew’s brother Granary Starfield Thangkhiew demanded from the government to take action against those involved in the killing of the former militant leader.
“The government should now register a case against those police involved in killing my brother (Thangkhiew). The government must also handed over the case to the CBI for further investigation into the matter,” 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) attempted to march towards the assembly to mount pressure on the government to take action against those involved in the killing of the former militant leader rejected the report of Vaiphei.
“We reject the report. We will hold discussions with the family members of Thangkhiew on our next course of action,” Donboklang Kharlyngdoh said.