Protests and bouts of violence have broken out in a state in India’s north east after the death of a former militant in the region during a police operation on Sunday.
Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, who was associated with the illegal Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), was killed in Meghalaya in a round of police firing while he attempted to flee his residence during the hunt.
Thangkiew’s death has sparked protests, stone pelting, vandalism and arson in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, reported The Indian Express newspaper. The internet services have been suspended in at least four districts for three days. The city has been placed under curfew until August 18 and the state’s home minister Lahkmen Ryumbui was forced to resign amid the demands for a judicial probe.
According to the police, Thangkiew attempted to escape as the police made their way to his residence to arrest him, but he attacked the team with a knife. In self-defence, police say they fired a single round at Thangkiew, who died on his way to the hospital, the report added.
Thangkiew’s death has been described as a “cold-blooded” murder and sparked an uproar among locals who are accusing the police of staging a “fake encounter” in order to kill the former militant.
A founding general secretary of the separatist council, Thangkhiew emerged in Shillong in October 2018. The government maintained that the 57-year-old leader had surrendered owing to his ill-health. He was also known for his council demand of seeking Meghalaya’s independence from India.
However, Meghalaya’s chief minister and officials have now stated that Thangkhiew had a role to play in the recent low-intensity blasts in July in Khliehriat, East Jaintia Hills and Laitumkhrah last week. He had become “active” starting this year and was planning another blast, the police told The Indian Express citing a tip-off.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said that the police investigation to arrest Thangkiew was expediated, in the run up to which some raids were necessary, reported East Mojo. Sangma added that the raid was not aimed at hurting anyone but the ex-militant leader died as a result of unfortunate circumstances.
“It would have been more beneficial if he was arrested,” the chief minister said.
Thangkiew’s funeral procession saw hundreds come together in a show of community support for the deceased militant who is now being called an “urban legend” and “a martyr of sorts,” the report said.
Locals also called for a “Black flag day”. Banners have also been raised in the city, seeking justice for Thangkiew and displaying anger towards the Meghalaya government.
Reports also said two petrol bombs were hurled at the CM’s house in Shillong.