Meghalaya is Boiling Over the Killing of Ex-Militant Leader in an Encounter

Amid severe pressure the Meghalaya government after a cabinet meeting on 16 August ordered a judicial inquiry into the murder of Cherishterfield Thangkhu.

Image: News Move

Curfew and internet ban – these two elements define the intensity of the unrest that is being resorted to by the hill state Meghalaya Police to control the situation after the killing of a former militant leader.

Hundreds of people took to the streets, damaged several vehicles, including a CRPF vehicle, and hurled a petrol bomb at Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s residence, a day after the funeral of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, the founding general secretary of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

For the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya, 56-year-old Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, affectionately known as Bah Che, was the hero who saved his lands, not allowing ‘outsiders’, i.e. non-tribals, to settle on his local markets.

When Cherishterfield Thangkhiew joined HNLC in 1987, he was only 22 years old. The main objective of the organization is to free Meghalaya from the domination of outsiders and create a separate state for the Khasis.

The organization was banned in 2000. Although the ban was later lifted, it was again outlawed in 2019.

On 10 August 2021, a low-intensity explosion occurred at around 1:30 in a busy market in Laitumkhara, Shillong, injuring a shopkeeper and a passerby. Later HNLC general secretary-cum-spokesperson Saikupar Nongtrao, which is based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the blast through a Facebook post.

Meghalaya Police was already probing another IED blast case that happened in Jaintia Hills. The prime suspect in the blast was said to be Chetishterfield Thangkhiew, a former HNLC militant. A joint team of East Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills police raided the residence of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew in Shillong.

Image: Getty Images

The police version of the raid explains their murderous police action as a response to a knife attack by Thangkhu during which the latter killed. However, his brother described various ailments with rendered him physically incapable of attacking anyone.

G. Thangkhev, his brother further told the media that those at the helm of power have used it to abuse those who have no power.

A petrol bomb was hurled at Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s residence during Independence Day celebrations. Meghalaya Home Minister Lakhmen Rimbui tendered his resignation in yet another shocking development amid the violence. He expressed grief over the murder of the former HNLC leader.

On 15 August, the Meghalaya government-imposed curfew in Shillong and banned the internet in at least four districts of Meghalaya to prevent violence.

According to the protesters, the killing of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew was a well-planned encounter. His family members also claimed that the Meghalaya Police only wanted to “finish” them.

Amid pressure from various rights bodies, student organizations, and opposition parties, the Meghalaya government after a cabinet meeting on 16 August ordered a judicial inquiry into the murder of Cherishterfield Thangkhu.

It also decided to form a peace committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Chief Minister Preston Tynsong and cabinet ministers Hamlet Dohling and Renicton Lyngdoh Tongkhar.

Also read: Meghalaya: Protests Against Constructing Dam Across Umngot River Continue

The article is a shorter version of the report from Janchowk.The article has been translated in English by Aparna Sanjay. 


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April 2024


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