Under pressure, the state government on Saturday decided to institute a magisterial inquiry into the gunning down of the former leader of the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) Cheristerfield Thangkhiew.
Convening a hurriedly called press conference this evening, Sangma said: “the police never wanted to harm any individual. The incident is unfortunate.” The criticism against the police action flooded the social media.
The government maintained that the intention of the operation carried out on Friday morning was to arrest and not to kill the former militant leader in order to prevent another possible bomb blast in Shillong.
Addressing media persons, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said, “The government will institute a magisterial inquiry and once it is done, the report will be submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which will then further take up the matter at their level.”
Termining the incident as ‘unfortunate’, Sangma said, “The intention was to arrest the concerned person (Cheristerfield) and unfortunately it led to a different circumstance and difference situation.”
“Therefore, it would have been more beneficial for the overall department and the police because then more information would be available, more networks would come out and the investigation process would be strengthened if we were able to have arrested the concerned person. Therefore, what happened is something which is very unfortunate,” he added.
He informed that the East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police had already submitted a report on the incident as mandated by the NHRC within 48 hours.
Appealing to all citizens to maintain peace, Sangma said whatever the government and the police is doing is in the interest of the safety of the citizens and the state.
“Therefore once again, I appeal to everybody that we must maintain law and order and must maintain peace in Shillong city and the state as a whole,” he said.
Cheristerfield Thangkhiew was shot dead at his residence at Mawlai Kynton Massar early Friday morning.
Police alleged that the former militant leader had attacked the police team with a knife when they tried to enter his house during an operation to arrest him for his involvement in the two IED blasts at Laitumkhrah on August 10 and Khliehriat police reserve on July 14, respectively.
However, the family of the slain ex-HNLC leader, who was suffering from kidney problems, termed the operation as a “pre-planned” move by the police to eliminate him.
The Chief Minister however said that police had intensified investigation following the two IED blast incidents to ensure these don’t happen in the future adding in the process, many people were arrested.
“After going into a large amount of information and doing a detailed investigation, the police had found credible and tangible evidence of involvement of a large number of people including the individual (Cheristerfield) who died a few days back. Based on this credible information, the police had made their strategy on how to move forward,” he said.
Asked on the timing of the operation being carried out by the police, the Chief Minister however said that the police had to act swiftly after credible information was received from multiple agencies that there is an attempt to plant another IED blast in Shillong.
“…the police felt that they need to move swiftly otherwise life could be loss and in the process while they were moving the intention was to arrest the concerned person as I said enough credible information was there on the involvement, a lot of evidence which again not possible for me to share as investigation is still going on, was there,” he said.
Sangma however denied that there were any lapses on the part of the police during the operation carried out at Cheristerfield’s house.
“Without going into further details, timing was critical for us. Therefore, the police made a decision to watch the movements and gather more evidence and information – that is all I can say,” he added.
To another query as to why the government is not instituting a judicial inquiry, Sangma said that the NHRC is independent and is an appropriate body to look into the matter.
Also refusing to disclose the ‘credible evidences’ against former HNLC leader, Sangma said, “I have seen the kind of evidence that is there…a lot of other people have also seen it, the problem is that since the investigations are on, I have been asked by the police and the agencies to not disclose that as it would affect the investigation process and then obviously the others who are involved would know. Therefore, in the interest of the investigation I would like to request if I would not be forced to give that detail but we know the detail and we have seen it is very much tangible and credible information.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has assured that the government and the police will continue to take action against anybody who tries to disturb peace in the state.
“It is never the intention of the government or the police to just simply harm anybody. Therefore, the police have always been working with the intention of keeping our public and the people safe. The police always make sure that nobody is harmed intentionally, that has always been the way the police work and we as a government have also endorsed that and that is how we would like to move forward in any situation,” he stated.