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Cops have ‘incontrovertible evidence’ against Cherishstarfield

Shillong, August 13: The Meghalaya DGP, R Chandranathan, said on Friday the police have “incontrovertible evidence” against Cherishstarfield Thangkhiew, the surrendered HNLC leader who was killed early in the morning.

Speaking to the media hours after the incident, Chandranathan said during investigation into the Khliehriat and Laitumkhrah bomb blasts, police found Thangkhiew’s involvement especially in the Khliehriat case.

“We also found his involvement and links to the Shillong blast case,” he added.

The former HNLC leader was shot dead at his residence at Mawlai Kynton Massar. Police alleged that the former militant leader was attacking the investigating team with a knife when they tried to enter his house during an operation to arrest him.

“When they (the police) entered his house… he tried to stab one of the constables and purely exerting the right to defence, one round was fired and Cherishstarfield was injured in the abdomen and he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries while he was being taken to the hospital,” said the DGP.

The joint operation was conducted by two police teams led by East Jaintia Hills SP and East Khasi Hills SP (Traffic, Law & Order) around 3 am. The team found “evidence”, including a firearm and a knife, from Thangkhiew’s residence.

Thangkhiew’s sons, Grainyferrous Greenfield Diengdoh and Olifin Zyircanium Greenfield Diengdoh, who were present during the incident, were picked up for interrogation.

A case has been registered in connection with the incident and the investigation will be supervised by a senior officer.

The police statement on Thangkhiew’s death did not convince the former militant’s family. To a query, Chandranathan said, “Raids and search operations were done after a lot of work and these things are not done at whims and fancies. Of course, there was an urgency in the wake of the blast on August 10 and also the threat looming large in the run up to the August 15 celebrations in the state, it was necessary for us to expedite… that is how the men and responsible officers on the ground decide.”

The DGP, however, refused to comment on the allegation made by the family that the operation was planned as they rejected the knife theory by saying, “I am speaking on record so I have no comments to make.”

“We had to arrest him in the interest of the case. Now, this thing has happened, he shouldn’t have challenged the police party, it was a wrong thing to do,” he stated.

When asked if it was possible for a man to attack five to six armed personnel with a knife, he said, “It is not like that. The ground is always different. When incidents take place most of the time it is not the way you expected it to be…”

The DGP also clarified that the two sons were never arrested but were detained for verification “because we have to ascertain their role also as it is a matter of investigation”. The DGP further claimed that the gun seized from the ex-militant leader was an illegal weapon. “We decided to arrest because we had reached a point where we had incontrovertible evidence against him. This I am saying on record.”

Stating that investigation is continuing as there are more people to be arrested in the IED blast incidents, the DGP said, “We now know the entire set-up and matrix of the organisation (HNLC).”

On the HNLC’s claim that police intelligence has been using its former leaders, Chandranathan said the outfit should come out with specific allegations.

When asked whether Thangkhiew was acting as a mediator between the government and the outfit, the DGP informed that the government’s stand on peace talks was clear that the outfit should first surrender, accept central policy and come for talks.

On the other hand, the DGP informed that the police are taking action against the threat issued by the HNLC to Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui.

The wanted self-styled general secretary of the once notorious and banned militant organisation of Meghalaya who was also called ‘Che’ surrendered in 2018 before Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong at the police headquarters. The then DGP was RP Agarwal.

A founding member of the Hynniewtrep A’chik Liberation Council in 1987, Cherishstarfield held the post of a general secretary when it was rechristened HNLC in 1997. The HALC was the first militant tribal outfit of the state.

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