Casualties hurt Meghalaya police morale

Shillong, Oct. 18 : The death of six lower ranked policemen this year in anti-insurgency operations in Garo hills after being trapped by the GNLA, has dealt a blow to the morale of constables.

At least five other policemen also sustained injuries in the past year fighting militants.

Despite the Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT) of the state police, the special Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) of the CRPF and personnel of BSF being engaged in combating militancy in Garo hills, the casualties mostly involve state police constables.

The latest incident took place on the evening of October 15 when havildar William Mawiong and two others were lured into a GNLA trap in the West Garo Hills.

After a villager, identified as Pintu Marak, lured them to the nearby river for fishing, the GNLA militants abducted the trio.

Mawiong was shot dead while two other policemen, Sambu Dalu and Grejilistone Momin, were tortured by the militants.

A similar trap was laid on June 4, when three policemen were killed and two others were injured by GNLA militants at Tapa Darengchi in the East Garo Hills.At Tapa Darengchi, the policemen had conducted one round of anti-dacoity raids in the early morning of June 4 and took shelter at Sepikol a nearby village as it was raining heavily.

Later, a few civilians informed them that there was some fresh robberies at Tapa Darengchi.

However, it was a trap as the police personnel were climbing the hillock to reach the spot of the robbery, the GNLA militants who were on a hillock ambushed them.

After the attack, the militants snatched an AK-47, INSAS, carbine and SLR rifles, magazines and three jackets.

The three victims in the June 4 ambush were havildar Blein Makhroh and constables Duke M. Sangma, and Johnhighbirth Marak, the injured policemen were G.G. Momin and M. Rymbai who were constables from the unarmed branch of the police.

In yet another case on July 3, GNLA militants succeeded in confusing the policemen.

In their hunt against the GNLA cadres in a village near Williamnagar in the East Garo Hills, two teams of police personnel which mistook each other for militants, clashed, resulting in the death of havildar Gopal Prasad Nunia and constable Exmarting Marak.

With these series of incidents, the issue of pushing constables and havildars to the forefront to fight militants is a cause of discontent among the lower ranked police officers posted in Garo hills.

However, Meghalaya DGP N. Ramachandran who concluded his Garo hills visit on October 15 instilled confidence among the policemen during his four-day stay.

He said the police were committed to neutralise the activities of the GNLA.

The DGP during his interaction with reporters the same day in Tura admitted the difficulties and poor standard of living of his officers and men on the ground.

Despite getting the lowest pay, an average policeman was working nothing short of 15 hours a day, the DGP said, adding that he would make efforts to uplift their living condition.

Giving courage to policemen on duty, the DIG, western range G.H.P Raju, who is co-ordinating the operations against the GNLA militants in Garo hills said the tactics of the GNLA are nothing but acts of cowardice.

He also said the police have established some leads into the killing of havildar William Mawiong and added that the Garo villager, Pintu Marak, who lured the policemen to the riverside for fishing, is an overground worker of the GNLA.

The constables who were assaulted by the GNLA have identified the group of militants led by the southern commander of GNLA, Baichung Momin, and accomplices identified as Chenang and Laben.

According to the police officer, the movement of GNLA cadres led by Momin from Chokpot to Purakhasia and Gambegre was noticed for the past few weeks.