Curfew imposed, internet cut in 4 Meghalaya districts after Shillong violence, Home Minister quits
Shillong, August 15, 2021
Violence, including stone-pelting and setting a police vehicle afire, rocked Shillong on Sunday, following the "killing" of a former militant leader on Friday, leading the authorities to enforce curfew and suspend internet services in four Meghalaya districts, officials said.
Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui resigned on Sunday night in wake of the violence.
Demanding a judicial inquiry into the Shillong violence, Rymbui, in his resignation letter to Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, said that he was shocked at the killing of HNLC ex-leader Chesterfield Thangkhiew following the police raid at his residence exceeding the lawful tenets of the law.
"Considering the gravity of the situation, I request you to relieve me of the Home (Police) Department with immediate effect. This will facilitate free and fair enquiry taken by the government to bring out the truth of the incident," Rymbui said.
In the wake of the series of violent incidents in Shillong and its outskirts, the Independence Day celebration was held in a very low-key manner.
A police official said that the protesters, who took out protest marches with black flags in Shillong on Sunday, accused the police for "killing in the name of an encounter" militant outfit Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council's former General Secretary Thangkhiew early on Friday.
A mob pelted stones on security forces and set ablaze a police vehicle belonging to the Mawkynroh police outpost at Jaiaw on Sunday afternoon. Police personnel in the vehicle, including the officer-in-charge of the outpost, managed to escape, but the protesters reportedly took away the weapons of the fleeing policemen.
Pelting of stones was seen in Shillong and some other parts of Meghalaya.
Despite a drizzle, a large crowd gathered at the residence of slain HNLC ex-leader at Mawlai area of Shillong on Sunday afternoon, while many people were seen standing on the terrace and top floors of their houses holding placards in solidarity. Motorcycle and other vehicle-borne protestors also went to various parts of the city and its outskirts.
East Khasi Hills District Magistrate Isawanda Laloo, ordering total curfew in Shillong and 13 other nearby areas from 8 p.m. on Sunday to Tuesday morning, said that information was received that there have been incidents of stone-pelting, arson, theft, and a serious breakdown of law and order in parts of Shillong city and there is every likelihood of further breach of peace which may lead to incidents causing loss of life and property.
State Home Secretary C.V.D. Diengdoh, in a separate order, suspended telecommunication service for 48 hours (from 6 p.m on Sunday evening) in four districts -- East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi.
"To prevent the misuse of the messaging system including SMS, WhatsApp and other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to disturb peace and tranquility in Meghalaya and for maintaining law and order, the telecommunication services were suspended," Diengdoh said in his order.
Friday's "encounter" came three days after the HNLC triggered an IED blast at a busy market area of the city injuring two persons, including a woman, and damaging nearby buildings in Shillong's Laitumkhrah market. The banned HNLC had owned up to the IED blast.
Meghalaya Director General of Police R. Chandranathan said that investigations into the several IED blasts in the state have revealed the involvement of drug addicts and over-ground workers of the outlawed HNLC to carry out their nefarious activities.
Thangkhiew, who was a founding leader of the HNLC before surrendering to the government in 2018, was cremated on Sunday.
The Meghalaya Human Right Commission (MHRC) has also taken suo motu cognisance of his killing, and has asked the Chief Secretary to submit a detailed report on the incident within 15 days, failing which the commission would conduct a probe on its own.
Main opposition Congress has also earlier demanded an inquiry by the MHRC to ascertain the facts behind the "encounter-style" killing of Thangkhiew by the police.
Its state General Secretary and former minister Ampareen Lyngdoh, in a statement, said: "Serious allegations are being raised by the citizens on the police operation which resulted in the death of a surrendered militant. An independent inquiry by the MHRC is necessary to find out the actual facts from both the police and the victim's family."