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Were the bullets that killed two agitators in Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya a bolt from the blue, literally? The Meghalaya police, ironically, kept mum on the issue so far. No denial has come from the police even as the Border Security Force (BSF), accused by some policemen as to have fired at the crowd, straightforwardly denied the allegation even though it admitted firing in the air. Is it another act of state-sponsored terrorism, a harsh reality in the in the insurgency-ravaged North-east? There is enough room to question the firing, if it is from any security agency. There was no report of lathicharge on the allegedly violent crowd, before the firing, let alone any use of rubber bullets.

An official report announcing a routine magisterial inquiry into the incident indicated that there could be a non-state actor involved in the firing. If it is so, the finger will be pointed at a conspiracy by pro-miner groups who, by any means, want to see the ban on coal mining removed at the earliest. Death of two common persons including a woman is a fair case to be presented before the Centre or the court to justify the “impact” of the ban ordered by National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the livelihood of indigenous people. But for this third possibility to be probed, the police should first deny its involvement, as did by the BSF. A magisterial inquiry – with all assistance from the police – may not cause much trouble for the men in uniform even if they had hid vital facts about the incident.

There is utter failure of the state machinery even if the version of Khliehriat police is taken for granted. The police claimed that they had fled the spot fearing backlash from the crowd, who were agitated over arrest of a person in connection with the torching a police car and damage to many besides assault on the district police chief the previous night. Fleeing a spot of tension is not a good move by police. There could be attack on innocent lives. Interestingly, the version of local police was nowhere reflected in any official report. All went silent, in the name of magisterial inquiry. The truth never comes out in many such controversial killings. Will this case be different?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 27, 2014)