Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui resigned from his post on Sunday after the killing of a surrendered militant of a banned insurgent group by the police, PTI reported.
Rymbui’s decision came hours after mob violence and arson on Independence Day forced the district magistrate of East Khasi Hills to impose a curfew in the Shillong Agglomeration area, which includes the state capital and adjoining regions.
The curfew came into effect from 8 pm on Sunday and will stay in effect till 5 am on August 17, an order issued by the state government said. The Meghalaya home ministry also imposed a 48-hour ban on internet services in the four districts of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi. The internet ban came into effect from 6 pm.
Tensions escalated in Shillong and nearby areas after Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, one of the founders of the Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council, was killed during a police raid in his home in Shillong on Saturday.
In a letter to Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Rymbui urged him to initiate a judicial inquiry into the incident.
“I hereby express shock to the incident where Chesterfield Thangkhiew was killed following the raid of police at his residence exceeding the lawful tenets of the law,” Rymbui wrote.
Eyewitnesses quoted by The Shillong Times said that a group of unidentified people pelted stones at a police vehicle on Sunday afternoon near Mawlai bypass in the Meghalaya capital.
The attackers, some of whom were carrying arms, took control of the vehicle after the policemen fled. They later torched the vehicle and vandalised gates of police outposts. Stones were also pelted at vehicles plying on the Guwahati-Shillong highway, according to The Shillong Times.
Petrol bombs were thrown at Sangma’s home, according to NDTV. However, nobody was injured as the chief minister stays at his official residence.
Hundreds joined Thangkhiew’s funeral procession in Shillong, and local organisations called for a “black flag day” to protest his killing, The Indian Express reported. On Saturday, the Hynniewtrep Youths’ Council had put up banners demanding justice in the matter.
One of the most prominent leaders of the Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council, which claims to fight for the Khasi-Jaintia tribal community, Thangkhiew had surrendered before then Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on October 18, 2018, according to the Hindustan Times.
Family members and supporters of Thangkhiew have accused the police of extra-judicial killing. They also described it as a “cold-blooded murder”. However, the police claimed that he was shot at during a scuffle with members of security forces raiding his home.
On Saturday, Granary Starfield Thangkhiew had said that police had come with an intention to kill his brother, the Hindustan Times reported.
“They could have come in the daytime like any other normal person or even summoned him to the police station,” he said. “Why early at 3 am when the whole world is fast asleep? It is clear by this action they came with one and only one mission, to kill my dear brother.”
Meghalaya Director General of Police R Chandranathan said that there was evidence to link Cheristerfield Thangkhiew to two recent improvised explosive device blasts claimed by the Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council.
He said that Cheristerfield Thangkhiew was shot in his abdomen after he tried to stab one of the constables during the raid. He later died at the hospital, Chandranathan claimed.
The police also claimed to have seized a 9 mm pistol, one knife, a laptop and a number of mobile phones and incriminating documents from his home.
The Meghalaya Human Right Commission has taken suo moto cognisance of the incident, PTI reported.
“The instant case appears to have resulted in gross human rights violation which according to Article 21 of the Constitution mandates for protection of life and personal liberty for every person within the territory of India,” it said.