Mob Unrest in Meghalaya After Three Civilians Are Injured in Police Firing

A mob burned a police station in Meghalaya’s North Garo Hills district after three civilians were shot for not stopping at a checkpoint.

A damaged police vehicle at Resubelpara, Meghalaya. Credit: PTI

A damaged police vehicle at Resubelpara, Meghalaya. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: A patrol party of Meghalaya police opened fire at three civilians in the state’s North Garo Hills district on March 6 night, after they failed to stop at a checkpoint. Following the gunfire, a mob attacked the police station of the district headquarters, Resubelpara, and set it on fire, damaging a number of police vehicles, temporary barracks, important documents and case files besides taking away two service weapons.

As per local news reports, the injured are being treated at a private hospital in Guwahati and the state government has decided to order a judicial probe into the matter.

While the driver, Milseng T. Sangma (35) was critically injured, two-small-time local traders occupying the vehicle, Janrok T. Sangma (26) and Dubal T. Sangma (24), had minor injuries.

As per Resubelpara police, on March 6, leader of the armed group United A’chik National Front, William A. Sangma – wanted by Meghalaya and Assam police for several kidnappings and extortions – gave the security forces a slip at a checkpoint in Thapa Darenchi area of the district. Since the police knew about his movements in the area, they intensified late night patrolling by setting up several checkpoints.

“At around 10.30 pm on March 6, police teams at a three-tier security check point on the Khaldang Road signalled a vehicle coming towards Resubelpara to stop but the driver didn’t. When it refused to halt at the last security tier, police was compelled to open fire at it to stop it,” North Garo Hills district superintendent of police Dalton Marak told this correspondent.

Many locals who took part in the protest, however, accused the police of opening fire at unarmed people without any warning.

Speaking to The Wire from Guwahati, Lemia, the wife of one of the injured Janrok T. Sangma said the victims were travelling in a mini truck from Krishnai town on the Assam-Meghalaya border after unloading areca nut. Around 10:30 pm, they spotted three police checkpoints on the Kardang-Resubalpara Road. While the first and the second group of policemen didn’t signal them to stop, the third group did. “But they didn’t stop as they thought the last group of policemen were as usual demanding bribe. Often policemen in the highway demand money from trucks. Then suddenly, the police men opened fire at them.”

Though the local police claimed they fired at the vehicle from the back as it was speeding away, the victims’ families ask, “Why were there bullet marks in the front of the vehicle?” The Wire couldn’t independently confirm this allegation.

Following the firing, the mob attacked policemen in front of Resubelpara district hospital, where the three injured were first taken by the police, and then directed their anger at the local police station. On receiving the information of mob attack, additional forces were rushed to Resubelpara from the nearby Tura and Williamnagar towns.

“It was an emotional outburst seeing their friends injured. The situation is peaceful now,” Dalton said on March 9. “The search for William is on. As per our information, he is hiding on the Assam side,” he added.

On March 8, responding to the issue of police firing at civilians at the state assembly, chief minister Mukul Sangma said the government would order a judicial probe into the matter.

“We will conduct a judicial inquiry. Apart from the support system provided to the injured, the compensation policy will also be implemented accordingly,” Sangma told the assembly.

Sangma’s response came after the issue was raised in the house by his party colleague and MLA from Resubelpara, Salseng C. Marak. Marak demanded a magisterial inquiry into the matter.

As per the victims’ families, the state government is taking care of the treatment besides paying a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the driver and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.