In a gruesome incident of militant brutality, members of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) shot at a Garo woman from point blank range after she resisted their attempts to rape her, blowing her head in front of her children, while her husband remained locked inside the house.
Six militants of the banned outfit stormed into the house of the 34-year-old woman at around 6pm on Tuesday evening. They locked up her husband, and molested the woman. When she resisted, two of the militants fired at the woman with AK47s killing her on the spot. Shockingly, the woman's four children were at the spot and witnessed the incident, while the husband remained locked in the house, informed Inspector General of Police (Operations) GHP Raju.
"The incident occurred in Raja Ronghat in South Garo Hills district, situated near the Bangladesh border. The woman's body has been taken to the civil hospital in the district headquarters in Baghmara, which is 60 kilometres from Raja Ronghat," said Raju.
Police sources added that on the general, there has been a rise in crimes against women in Meghalaya, and that most cases go unreported because many of these villages lie in areas under thick jungle cover. The source also added that in 2013 the police reported a total of 343 cases of crimes against women, a spurt from 255 cases reported in 2012. Of these, in 2013, 183 were rapes cases and 98 molestation cases. In 2012, the number of rape cases stood at 164 and there were 43 reported molestation cases.
"We have sought factual report from Meghalaya government. It is a very sensitive matter as it involves tribal sensibilities. Further action will be decided only after we get all the facts and state government's responses," a senior official from the Home Ministry said. The state home minister Roshan Warjri, too, condemned the incident and issued a statement. "I strongly condemn the cold blooded, gruesome and inhumane murder by the militants. The unlawful activities being carried out by militant groups leading to the death of many innocent civilians is indeed shameful and must be condemned in the strongest of terms. Such desperate acts of cowardice and aggression on the helpless will not bring any solution but will rather aggravate the situation," the minister said.
Theilin Phanbuh, chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Women, said that they were deeply shocked at the incident. "We are completely shatter to hear about the incident and strongly condemn it. There has been a rise of cases against women, but not to this extent. We request the government to take necessary action, and book the militants under law. On our part, we will do what is necessary," said Phanbuh. On asked whether a NCW team will sent over to the village, Phanbuh said that they "will consider it".
Member of Parliament from the Garo Hills PA Sangma said that he will send a delegation to meet minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju to seek the Centre's intervention to mete out strict punishment to the six accused, and criticised the ruling Congress party in the state and blamed them for a breakdown for law and order. "I strongly condemn the incident and am worried over the Garo Hills situation which is worsening every passing day. This has never been the case in the past. The state government has failed in tackling the situation," said Sangma.
Binalakshmi Nepram, secretary general of the Manipuri Women Gun Survivors Network, who has worked against disarmament and the rehabilitation of women and children affected in conflict areas, said that despite the brutality of the incident, the phenomena is not a new one. "There has been some word going around that the militants killed the woman because she was a police informer, and these are ways armed militants resort to in order to malign a woman and rationalise their behaviour. It is tragic that state authorities ignore the fact that women in conflict areas such as these are three times more vulnerable. Militants run a parallel government, and government authorities must take notice," said Nepram.