Meghalaya DGP

Shillong: Even as Meghalaya Director General of Police (DGP) R Chandranathan claimed that the police had incontrovertible evidence linking former HNLC leader Cherishterfield Thangkhiew’s involvement with the recent blasts in the state, family members have denied his involvement in the incidents and alleged that he was killed in a ‘fake encounter’

The raid carried out by the combined team of East Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills Police at Thangkhiew’s residence in Shillong during the wee hours of Friday has left many unanswered questions on the timing of the offensive.

Cherishterfield Thangkhiew’s brother G Thangkhiew alleged that the encounter was pre-planned and that the police just wanted to eliminate him.

“I will not tolerate this. The people at the helm of affairs have misused their powers on people like us who don’t have any power. My brother was very ill, he was always at home. He couldn’t even walk up the stairs and his legs were swollen since he had kidney problems and other health issues. If they wanted to interrogate him they should have come and question him during the day and not during the middle of the night. I don’t agree that they found any evidence and they had framed it,” said G Thangkhiew.

56-year-old Cherishterfield Thangkiew (R) was allegedly killed during an encounter after the police raided his house at about 3 am on Friday

On Friday, the DGP called a press conference at the police headquarters in Shillong and briefed the media about the events of the raid. He informed that the former self-styled general secretary of the banned outfit was involved in the recent IED bomb blast at Laitumkhrah market in Shillong, which left two people injured. The DGP mentioned that Cherishterfield was also wanted in the earlier IED blast in Khliehriat, East Jaintia Hills.

He further said that during the raid, on entering the house, he [Cherishterfield Thangkhiew] wielded a knife and attacked one of the police personnel who fired a retaliatory shot and injured him. Later, he was taken to the civil Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, the DGP added.

“Two of his associates were taken into custody for interrogation and the police seized a firearm, digital documents, and other incriminating materials,” he said.

The DGP added that incontrovertible evidence pointed that the deceased was involved in the series of bomb blasts.

However, the statement given by the DGP did not seem to match with what the sons had narrated. The two sons, Grainy FG Diengdoh and Olifin G Diengdoh, claimed that they were in the same room during the raid.

With a swollen lip and a bruised body, Grainy FG Diengdoh said that this was a fake encounter. Narrating the incident, Diengdoh said that around 3 am, the police forcefully broke into their house, and the next thing he heard was a gunshot.

“After they barged in without knocking, they threw me and my brother down on the ground, kicked and beat us, and covered our faces with blankets. The only next thing I saw was my father lying dead on the ground and I think he was still breathing. His body was lying on the ground for almost an hour after he was shot. They did not rush him to the hospital at all,” said Diengdoh.

Asked if there was any knife and if they had retaliated, Diengdoh said that he did not see any knife around. “We don’t put a knife in the bedroom and it would be in the kitchen which was on the ground floor. They did not ask any questions when they barged in. I did not shout out for help also since it just happened so quickly and I saw that they were in police uniform but were masked so I did not retaliate and kept quiet,” mentioned Diengdoh.

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According to the son, the police had confiscated their phones. The police did not ask them any questions during the raid.

“They just kept searching the house and kept us there in the room for two or three hours and later they took us in the car. All they had asked was our names, so we had informed them that we were both the sons and they did not believe us and thought that we were his security,” stated Diengdoh.

Both the sons were then taken to Sadar police station and later were headed to Khliehriat when the East Jaintia Hills police came.

Diengdoh said that they never reached Khliehriat. Halfway through, they made a U-turn and returned to Shillong after realising that they were Cherishterfield Thangkhiew’s sons and not the slain militant’s associates.

Diengdoh questioned the timing of the raid and said that they could have arrested his father during the day since he was always at home.

Shocked with what has happened, Diengdoh has now demanded for an independent inquiry because he believes that it was a fake encounter.

Even if he was involved in the blasts, they could have arrested him during the day but it is shocking that they chose to raid at night, said Diengdoh.

Pressure groups condemn the ‘encounter’

Hynniewtrep Youths’ Council (HYC) Mawlai circle president Donboklang Kharlyngdoh visited Thangkiew’s family’s house upon hearing the incident. Kharlyngdoh has also claimed that it was a fake encounter.

“We condemn this kind of incident. This is a fake encounter. He was an old man and had health issues. The question now is if the police suspected him involved in any crime, why didn’t they come during the day. This is inhuman… the two sons are innocent and have been forcefully taken by the police,” stated Kharlyngdoh.

Similarly, Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) condemned the killing of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew. The organisation has condemned the killing or any kind of violence, whether by the state or non-state actors.

TUR leader Angela Rangad said, “Killings and violence destroy the fabric of day-to-day life and creates an atmosphere of fear for all. The law should work and be equal for all. Citizens are required to follow the law, but this holds true even more to the State and its government. These kinds of killings create chaos in the State and especially in the capital, Shillong. Therefore, TUR requests citizens to be vigilant, aware and not be misguided by forces who seek to destabilise for their own selfish interests.”

She added that TUR will continue to stand against the authoritarian preventive detention laws like AFSPA, MMPO and UAPA, and demands that these laws be repealed.

TUR has also called upon the people to stand up for the defence of human rights. They have also demanded for an independent probe be constituted to look into the killing of Cherishterfield Thangkiew, to be headed by a High Court judge.

BJP Leader and former health minister AL Hek has strongly opposed the incident and said that it was inhuman. Hek has been one of the ministers who has been spearheading and trying to initiate peace talks between the banned militant outfit and the Central Government.

Hek questioned how it was retaliatory when a person is sleeping in the middle of the night with his family.

“Cherishterfield was no longer a militant, he had surrendered and was living a normal life as a normal citizen. If there were illegal or any criminal activities done by him, it was the duty of the government and the police department to arrest and take the person for a thorough investigation. Saying that it was a retaliatory shot and killing him doesn’t sound right and I feel that violence cannot end with violence,” said Hek.

The BJP MLA has also demanded for a judicial inquiry so that truth will prevail.

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Asked if he also sees this as a fake encounter, Hek said that what had happened during the raid in that room, he doesn’t know. But his only objection was the timing of the raid or the so-called encounter. “Why was the raid carried out in the middle of the night when the person was with his family, asleep?” asked Hek.

He has also raised questions on how the police claimed that it was a retaliatory shot if the deceased was only holding a knife and not a gun. “I am sure the police did not go alone. They had a team with them, so what was the harm in arresting him?” asked Hek.

He further mentioned that he has time and again taken initiative to hold peace talks with the Central government. Hek said that it was only due to the pandemic talks couldn’t be held. “The door to hold peace talks isn’t closed as yet and they should be patient. We want to bring peace and normalcy in the states so we will continue with the initiative,” said Hek.

Meanwhile, family members said that Cherishterfield Thangkhiew’s funeral will be held on Sunday, August 15.

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