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Police killed ex-Meghalaya militant leader in 'reckless' operation: Panel

The Meghalaya Police killed a former extremist leader last year in "a reckless operation using excessive force"

Meghalaya

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 Sep 2022 8:43 AM GMT

SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Police killed a former extremist leader last year in "a reckless operation using excessive force", according to a report of a judicial commission into the incident tabled in the Assembly on Friday.

Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Friday submitted the report of the one-member Commission headed by former Chief Justice of Tripura High Court T. Vaiphei into the killing of former Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) leader Cheristerfield Thangkhiew in Shillong on August 13, 2021.

The Commission held that the police operation to arrest the former leader of the banned militant outfit, for alleged involvement in bomb (IED) blasts in Shillong and East Jaintia Hills district headquarters Khliehriat, from his residence in the early hours was "thoughtless", leading to his death that was "avoidable".

"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, its report said.

It said that the forced entry into the house in darkness was a reckless exercise and tantamount to the disproportionate use of force.

"Thangkhiew's death defeated the very purpose of launching the operation to detain him alive. The police could have arrested him alive had the operation team waited for about two hours for daylight to emerge, cordoned off his house and lobbed teargas into the rooms to force the occupants out."

The probe panel also said the post facto excuse that none but the deceased was hurt "cannot be a valid justification for the tactical team-I carried out the operation hastily and recklessly".

It advised against raiding houses occupied by civilians in urban areas at night in pursuit of criminals or to arrest them in order not to harm innocent occupants in any manner. The panel recommended carrying police personnel engaged in nocturnal operations with night vision cameras and sensitising the police force to respect the human rights of the citizens. 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 and protests with the angry mob setting vehicles on fire and brandishing firearms snatched from the police.

Demanding a judicial inquiry into the violence, Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui offered to resign on August 15. However, his resignation was not accepted by the Chief Minister. The family of the late HNLC leader on Thursday asserted that they would approach the National Human Rights Commission if the report is "not in their favour".

However, after the submission of the commission report on the first day of the autumn session of the assembly, the family members have yet to disclose their opinion.

The outlawed HNLC, which was formed with the aim of the state's secession from India, is now in the process of talks with the Central and state governments. (IANS)

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