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savio marakA photograph showing a slain Garo militant with his hand tied with a rope created more ripples than the killing itself. Picture of the bullet-riddled and blood-spilled body of Savio Marak went viral on July 9. Savio, the former policeman, held an important position in the ranks of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA). While the rope was the centre of debate another key element of the photograph are two camouflaged men, apparently security personnel, pointing their guns on the body of the slain militant, Savio Marak. This kind of gesture on the body of a most wanted militant may not be rare for people on the ground, but the photograph is a huge shocker. The men in uniform might have been ecstatic after the ‘mission accomplished’, but celebration on dead body is unacceptable. Because one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter! Such message of ‘celebration’ should not be delivered to the public. It appears the photograph was leaked to the media without the consent of the police.

The police have been very prompt to reply to the other controversial part of the photograph. A senior police official said, ‘Only the right hand is tied with a rope to turn the body aside to ensure there are no grenades or explosives hidden below his body. Both hands are never tied.’ On the photograph, Marak’s body is seen outside a bamboo hut, shoe-less, on the ground with multiple bullet wounds to his chest, legs and arms. There is a lot of blood on front porch and a rope is noticed tied to his right hand. According to the senior police official, “This is a must drill to be followed by security forces. It is taught in Special Forces training. In Jammu and Kashmir, many militants hid grenades under bodies of militants or police to trap those who go to recover the bodies.” However, the question remains as to why similar photograph never came across the media so far. Was it a mistake of police to let the photo leaked to the media?

The compulsion of police to get rid of hard-core militants, by any means, is understood. It’s an open secret that many ‘good’ cops resort to fake encounter to eliminate criminals, knowing that arresting such men would serve no purpose. Either they don’t have confidence to establish the crime or they don’t have confidence on the judiciary. There are ill motives of fake encounters too. It is not known, and will never be known, if the killing of Savio Marak falls under any of the above categories. People will benefit only if the law and order situation improved in Garo Hills, the hotbed of militancy.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 11, 2015)