Shillong: A search and rescue team (SRT) of the Meghalaya fire and emergency services department on Monday recovered all three missing rifles that were snatched from the police by masked miscreants during the Shillong unrest on August 15.

Two days after an anonymous letter was received on the whereabouts of the three Insas rifles that were snatched from the Meghalaya Police last week, 11 SRT personnel started a search operation at Wahumkhrah river below the Umpohliew bridge in Shillong at about 11:30 am on Monday.

Nongsaiñ Hima, a local daily, had received an anonymous letter on Saturday giving whereabouts of the weapons.

“When they did not find anything after an hour of digging through the river, they returned back and found the three rifles below the bridge itself,” G Muktan, in-charge of the search and rescue team told EastMojo.

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Assistant Inspector General of Police GK Iangrai said the three INSAS rifles, which were stolen from the Mawkynroh-Umshing outpost on August 15, were recovered on Monday from Wah Umkhrah by the Search & Rescue Team (SRT) of the Fire & Emergency Services and the District Police of East Khasi Hills. 

“Meghalaya Police expresses its sincere gratitude to the Rangbah Shnongs of Mawlai Town Dorbar for their continuous support and to the youths,” Iangrai said in a statement.

The headmen of the localities of Jaiaw and Mawlai had joined hands with the Meghalaya police to assist in the operation.

“We called for a meeting on Sunday after seeing the anonymous letter that was addressed to Mawlai Town Dorbar and jointly came to inspect this bridge hoping to find the rifles and coordinated with the police department,” Headman of Jaiaw Laitdom SB Kharbangar said.

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Reigning Lyngdoh, a journalist with Nongsaiñ Hima, said the newspaper office received the said letter on the evening of August 21, Saturday. 

“We received the letter but had doubts about its authenticity. As journalists, we decided to publish the same, especially since the headmen were making appeals to those who had taken the arms to disclose the location,” Lyngdoh said.

The local daily considered the threat involved, and hoped the police would act swiftly to check the given location and establish authenticity of the letter.

When EastMojo had contacted SP Sylvester Nongtnger on Saturday after the letter was received, he had said: “I just read it in the news about the anonymous letter.” Doubting the authenticity of the the letter and the claims made therein, the SP had denied that a Meghalaya Police team would hunt for the rifles at the given location.

According to the letter, on August 15, the anonymous sender and his friends were walking through Lawmali area in Shillong, where they met a group of teenagers brandishing the weapons. When asked, they told them that they had snatched the rifles from the policemen at Mawkynroh.

“As senior people, and fearing that these kids might misuse them, we immediately took them away and threw ‘the three rifles’ at Umpohliew Bridge,” the anonymous letter said.

It was only when they saw in the news that the government and the local heads have been urging to return the weapons that they decided to inform the authorities. “We apologise for not thinking through before throwing those weapons because we were more concerned about the safety of the young boys,” said the letter.

The letter was addressed to the headman of Mawlai Town Dorbar, with copies sent to the East Khasi Hills SP and the media. Pictures of the bridge and the flowing river were attached with the letter.

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