Shillong: Protests broke out in Shillong soon after the Justice Vaiphei inquiry report on former HNLC general secretary Cherishterfield Thangkhiew’s encounter death was tabled on the floor of the House during the first day of the Autumn Session on Friday.
The one-man commission of inquiry on the operation carried out by Meghalaya police at the house of (L) Cherishterfield Thangkhiew in the wee hours of August 13 last year has revealed that even though the raid was the result of a well laid out plan, it was executed poorly, recklessly, hastily and without proper application of mind.
Soon after the report was tabled in the House on Friday, Sur Ka Bri U Hynñiewtrep (Voice of the Hynñiewtrep People) started its protest at the Harrison Bridge Rilbong, demanding justice.
The former HNLC leader’s encounter death last August had resulted in widespread protests and disruption, after which the Meghalaya government decided to constitute an inquiry.
Justice Vaiphei, through the recommendations in his report, stated that it was a “botched up operation”, which failed in its objective of apprehending the former militant leader alive, who could have given the police valuable information about the subversive activities of the proscribed HNLC outfit.
The commission report stated, “In my opinion, having entered what could potentially be a lion’s den in darkness without proper planning and without taking adequate precaution, State Witness No. 4 had taken purely avoidable and unnecessary risk endangering his own life and that of deceased whom the team professed to have not intended to kill him in the first place.”
The Commission also found that the forced entry into the house of the deceased in darkness and the subsequent killing of the deceased was a “reckless exercise and tantamount to disproportionate use of force”, which resulted in the death of the deceased.
The report further stated that if the police had waited for about 2 hours or so to let the daylight to emerge, cordoned off the house of the deceased (as they actually
did here) in the meantime and lobbed teargas grenade into the rooms occupied
by the deceased and his family, they could have been forced to come out of the
house; the deceased could have been easily apprehended by this means. In this
way, the safety of the other innocent members of the family of the deceased could also be ensured.
“In my considered view, the post facto excuse that none but the deceased was hurt cannot be a valid justification for carrying out the operation hastily and in a reckless manner by the Tactical Team-I,” the report said.
Justice Vaiphei, in his report, concluded, “My finding is that the Tactical Team-I in carrying out the operation to arrest the deceased at his residence on 13-8-2021 at about 3 AM was culpable of thoughtless and excessive use of force, which resulted in the death of the deceased, late Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, which turned out to be avoidable.”
He also stated that despite the fact that the deceased’s house was kept under surveillance for sometime prior to the raid, yet it could not be ascertained by the Tactical Teams if armed militants were also holed up in that house or not. Justice Vaiphei found it “rather intriguing” and “not acceptable”.
The commission also made further recommendations, including:
(a) Raiding a residential house occupied by civilians in urban areas at night in pursuit of criminals/to arrest them should not be carried out so that innocent occupant(s) are not harmed in any manner.
b) The police personnel deployed for night operation should be provided with night vision devices (NVDs), if they have not been so provided. These devices are available in the open market;
c) The use of tear gas grenades should be made mandatory for the security forces while raiding residential houses in urban areas;
d) In the event of raiding such residential houses, the primary consideration should be to avoid endangering the lives of innocent civilians or to prevent avoidable collateral damage.
e) Sensitization of the police force to respect the human rights of the citizens is the need of the hour; a course to that effect may be organized from time to time.
f) Henceforth, whenever any raid of this nature is being conducted in urban areas, an ambulance should be made a part of the team so that unnecessary loss of life can be avoided.
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