The arrest of five persons by Meghalaya police in connection with the mysterious death of a police officer left many questions unanswered. PJ Marbaniang, the then sub-inspector of Patharkhama outpost in Ri-Bhoi district, was found shot dead in his quarters on January 24 this year. Police shockingly concluded it to be a suicide inviting severe criticism from the civil society groups and the family. Finally, the police registered a murder case on the basis of a complaint lodged by the family. An SIT probe was ordered. The SIT headed by city SP Vivek Syiem has delayed submission of its findings citing delay in getting the forensic report from a Hyderabad-based laboratory. Even the Meghalaya High Court in June ordered the laboratory to submit its examination report at the earliest. It was after such mounting pressure that police finally booked five persons. As widely thought, Marbaniang was not murdered, according to police. They stuck to their earlier theory and accused these five people of abetting the ‘suicide’ by the young officer.

Marbaniang was appointed in the police outpost as an in-charge (IC) just a few weeks before the fatal incident. The police admitted that the primary reason behind the incident was criminal elements in the coal trade. The arrested even include a block development officer, one NGO leader, who is also a headman, and his two subordinates, and one contractor. The police said these people have been constantly pressurising Marbaniang, which possibly led to his ‘suicide’. The fundamental question here is – would he not inform his superiors about any such external pressure. If he was a honest policeman not willing to let to the 30 coal trucks he seized, and if there was pressure from the BDO and the NGO leader, the best option for him was to inform his higher-ups.

A mentally fit police officer is not expected to commit suicide under such circumstances, unless his image is damaged in the public, family, department. Going by the relatives’ versions, he did not appear to have any family problems. As such it can only be some pressure from ‘higher-ups’ that pushed him into a complex state of mind and he took the drastic step, if he did so at all. Was there any higher-up involved in the episode? Has SIT not explored this angle or trying cover-up? There are many missing links in the police story about the incident. More explanations needed.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 10, 2015)