Garo Hills has plunged into anarchy. Shape of administration can be gauged well by the fact that an entire police station was blocked from all sides by a mob for hours. Policemen had to take cover inside. They could not help but watching three vehicles being burnt at their doorstep under impact of petrol bombs. No reinforcement could come until four hours as the ‘protesters’ blocked all routes to the Chokpot police station in South Garo Hills.
The question now being asked by police, although not openly, is that who were these people. Definitely, there were angered by the two custodial deaths within eight days in the region, the last being at Chokpot police station lock-up on May 27. The ‘mob’ in the militancy-infested appears to be well prepared for a large-scale attack as they blocked the routes to the town with logs and stones. Another question being asked is that where did they get the petrol bombs, if they had come there just to protest the custodial death as claimed by local sources. Exploring into such angles of the attack is part of the routine investigation. But what police should introspect at this hour is that can they afford to be so unprepared to be held hostage for hours inside their own police station. They should keep in mind that they are in Garo Hills where there is no sign of insurgency graph going down anytime soon.
It’s an intelligence failure too if there was any plan, as it seems so, behind the attack on the police station. The police station being located at a remote town and the deceased being allegedly involved in planting IEDs on behalf of GNLA, it would not have been an out of the box thinking to apprehend such an attack. However, cops at the police station must be credited for exercising restraint. The issue could have snowballed into a much bigger one had police tried to overpower the mob by shooting and causing human casualty.
The violation of basic human rights is too obvious in the two cases of custodial deaths, the first one being at Tura, the virtual capital of Garo Hills region, on May 20. Meghalaya police have to fight this reality without trying to save its skin. Let the guilty, whatever high officials they are or any others, be punished. All that have been seen till this hour is that there is an attempt to put the blame on doctors. Police already indicated that the medical officer of Chokpot arrived 12 hours after being informed about Winston M Sangma lying unconscious inside the lock-up. Did police try to attend to the sick person or he still lied on the floor of the lock-up? Did police make any attempt to go in search of the doctor instead of waiting for him till the next day? The inquiry must answer these questions.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 31, 2014)