The Trinamool Congress in Meghalaya has been accused of masterminding a failed bid to attack Chief Minister Conrad Sangma Monday (July 24).
The state Trinamool youth president, Richard Marak, was arrested from his residence Tuesday (July 25) for orchestrating Monday’s attack on the state ‘mini secretariat’ in Tura while the chief minister was holding a meeting with some civil society members there.
State director general of police (DGP) L R Bishnoi said that Marak had financed some people who provoked a crowd, that had gathered outside the mini secretariat, to attack the CM.
The crowd pelted stones and damaged 21 vehicles, including five belonging to the CM’s convoy.
Bishnoi said that the attack was pre-planned and plastic cans filled with petrol as well as stones were stockpiled near the mini secretariat.
The small police team guarding the mini-secretariat as well as the CM’s security detail were caught off guard when the belligerent crowd started pelting stones. The police resorted to a lathi charge but the crowd became more violent.
Top police officers told Swarajya that had police reinforcements not rushed to the spot immediately, the situation could have spun out of control. “The mob started shouting slogans and soon turned violent without any provocation. It was pre-planned,” said DGP Bishnoi.
“It was a pre-planned conspiracy to harm the chief minister. Money and liquor was distributed to the ringleaders who instigated the mob,” said Bishnoi.
Apart from recovery of physical evidence, the police have also gathered recordings of the exhortations made by the ringleaders in the mob. “They (the ringleaders) started abusing the CM and provoked the crowd to attack the mini secretariat, single out the CM and attack him. They also gave calls to murder the CM,” Bishnoi added.
The attack on the mini secretariat came in the backdrop of a demand to declare Tura (in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya) as the state’s winter capital and adequate reservation for Garos in government jobs.
Two groups--the Achik Conscious Holistically Integrated Krima (ACHIK) and the Garo Hills State Movement Committee (GHSMC)--have been spearheading these demands.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, his cabinet colleague Marcusie Marak and senior state government officials were holding a meeting with representatives of ACHIK and GHSMC at the min secretariat at Tura Monday evening to discuss the two demands.
A mob gathered outside while the meeting was in progress and started shouting slogans. Very soon, the slogan shouting turned bellicose and aggressive, and the mob started pelting stones.
Police officers say that the mob was well-prepared to storm the mini secretariat and even set it on fire.
Trinamool youth president Richard Mrong Marak who was arrested Tuesday is learnt to have distributed large amounts of cash to some people to instigate the mob to carry out the attack on the mini secretariat.
Marak had contested as the Trinamool candidate against Conrad Sangma from the South Tura Assembly seat in the Assembly elections held earlier this year. He was handed a humiliating defeat.
According to senior police officers who are part of the ongoing investigations into the conspiracy to attack and harm the chief minister, the Trinamool leader involved his own party workers as well as some workers of the BJP in the entire plot.
Marak is said to have given considerable sums of money to some BJP workers, including two BJP Mahila Morcha activists, to instigate people to carry out the attack on the CM.
Police have identified 26 people who were part of the conspiracy to harm the Chief Minister. Twenty-one of them have been arrested. The arrested include 13 Trinamool functionaries (including Richard Marak) and eight BJP workers.
State BJP president Ernest Mawrie, while harshly condemning Monday’s violence and the failed bid on the Chief Minister, said that an internal inquiry has been ordered and those found guilty of involvement in the violence will be thrown out of the party.
“No one who is guilty of this crime will be spared. We wholeheartedly support the police investigation and want all culprits arrested and handed out exemplary punishment,” he said.
BJP leaders privately admitted that the involvement of party workers in the attack has come as a big embarrassment for the party which is part of the ruling alliance in the state.
“We think that the Trinamool leader (Richard Marak) took advantage of the emotive demand (for making Tura the winter capital) to mislead our workers and provoke them into participating in the attack. Nonetheless, we are against violence and want the guilt, irrespective of party affiliations, to be punished very harshly,” a state BJP leader told Swarajya.
But former chief minister and top Trinamool leader Mukul Sangma slammed the police for arresting his party leader. He accused the police of “following the dictates of their political bosses”.
Sangma termed the arrest of Richard Marak as a “political witch hunt" and demanded an impartial probe.
Trinamool state president Charles Pyngrope accused the police of failure in controlling the mob outside the Tura mini secretariat. He also alleged that the police were trying to give a political colour to the incident.
The West Garo Hills district administration has imposed night curfew between 9 pm and 5 am all over the district. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC banning assembly of five or more persons have been imposed, and the sale of liquor prohibited. The district authorities have also imposed a cap of five litres on sale of fuel from fuel stations.
The Trinamool Congress has often been accused of injecting violence into Meghalaya’s placid political landscape. For the first time in its history, the largely peaceful state of Meghalaya witnessed political violence in the run-up to the Assembly polls held earlier this year.
Taking a leaf out of the practice in Bengal, Meghalaya’s Trinamool cadres had clashed violently with workers of other political parties and tried to disturb and disrupt rallies of rival parties. The Trinamool cadres had also tried to threaten and intimidate workers and supporters of rival parties, quite like what they do in Bengal.
According to Meghalaya police officers, a large number of Trinamool leaders and ‘advisors’ had stationed themselves in Meghalaya during the election campaign and they are suspected of having instigated the poll violence in the hill state.
During last year’s Assembly elections in Goa as well, the Trinamool was accused of injecting a lot of bad blood. Politics and elections campaigns in Goa have been devoid of acrimony and open hostility between rival parties and politicians.
However, the Trinamool, led by Mamata Banerjee, launched a vicious campaign not only against the BJP, but also the Congress.
The Trinamool, which posed as a serious contender for power in Goa but had to face a humiliating defeat, has been accused of vitiating the cordial political atmosphere in the coastal state.
“The Trinamool is exporting political violence and acrimony to other states where it has gained a toehold. It had done the same in Tripura also, but had been completely rejected by the people of that state. Violence and viciousness is the culture and is in the DNA of the Trinamool. Anyone who has heard Mamata Banerjee and other leaders of the party speak and behave will know this,” said Bengal BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
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