School teacher, petty vendor shot dead in a case of mistaken identity
TURA: The families of two civilians shot dead by army personnel in Rajasimla area on Wednesday night have filed FIRs with North Garo Hills Police seeking action against the perpetrators of the cold blooded murder of their loved ones.
Rajasimla school teacher Alphius M Momin (35) and Sweetbirth D Marak (30), a vendor who sold P form challans at Dainadubi check gate, were travelling on a motorcycle at around 8:40 in the night when they were shot dead by army personnel who were out on patrol in the area.
The incident took place near Konchikol, 2 km from Kharkutta Bazar, where the army personnel from the Gurkha Regiment, deployed at Rangjuli town in neighbouring Assam, had reportedly been conducting an operation inside North Garo Hills to flush out suspected Garo militants.
According to the version given to the district police by the army, they allege that the motorcyclist did not heed warnings to stop and tried to drive through forcing the personnel to open fire. The army also claims that the two-wheeler did not sport a number plate and had ‘faulty’ headlights when it was ordered to halt.
Anger is brewing in the region following the incident and more so because the army allegedly abandoned the bodies at the side of the road after the shooting.
The Kharkutta police outpost personnel were reportedly informed about the incident by the public. Although the army is authorized to operate within 20 km inside Meghalaya territory for counter-insurgency operations, yet it is mandatory to inform the local police and take a local policeman as a guide.
In the case of Wednesday’s killing, neither was the police informed nor did the army take along a police guide in its operation.
Local MLA of Kharkutta and Parliamentary Secretary Cherak W Momin has expressed his anger against the army targeting innocent civilians inside Garo Hills. After a visit to the site he demanded a magisterial enquiry and pointed out that neither the district SP nor any senior police officer was informed about the operation by the army.
North Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner, Sibhi C Sadhu while speaking to The Shillong Times over phone from Resubelpara on Thursday evening said a magisterial probe would be initiated as soon as he receives the police report and the inquest from the magistrate on the killings.
This is the second case of the army shooting unarmed civilians in a case of mistaken identity in the Kharkutta region, this year.
On March 17, two daily wagers – Selba Sangma and Jekke Arengh – were shot dead while returning from a bird hunting trip at Darang Petchong village of Kharkutta by army personnel from the Dogra Regiment. After realizing their mistake, the army personnel planted two country made pistols by the side of the bodies to make it look like an encounter.
However, two other members of the hunting group, Dilnath Momin and Robin Momin, who were taken into custody by the army, later, revealed the actual events to the police forcing the government to order a probe.
As the people of Garo Hills continue to join the public protest to oppose the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and the central government in New Delhi endorsing the public mood by deciding to file a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court to ensure there is no AFSPA in the Garo Hills, Wednesday night’s killing has given further weight to the public resentment.