Former HNLC leader killed in "encounter"; family calls it "pre-planned" move

The former general secretary of the HNLC had surrendered before the state police in 2018 and offered to become a mediator for peace talks between the government and the banned outfit.

Former leader of the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) Cherishterfield Thangkhiew was shot in an "encounter" with the police in the wee hours of Friday at his residence in Mawlai Kynton Massar, the police said. The incident comes three days after the Laitumkhrah bomb blast on August 10.

Assistant Inspector of Police, GK Iangrai said that based on evidence leading to the involvement of Cherishterfield in the IED blasts in East Khasi Hills and East Jaintia Hills, an operation was launched in the early hours of Friday morning to arrest the former general secretary of HNLC and his associates.

"When the police team tried to enter his house, the surrendered cadre attacked the team with a knife in an attempt to escape. The police team, exercising the right to private defence, fired a single round which hit the surrendered cadre. He was immediately rushed to Civil Hospital, Shillong for medical assistance but the 54-year-old succumbed to the injury," Iangrai stated in a statement issued on Friday morning.

Police further stated that incriminating evidence has been seized from the residence of Cherishterfield, including a firearm and a knife, and two persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the cases. "A case has being registered in connection with the incident and the investigation will be supervised by a senior officer to further ascertain the facts and circumstances," Ianrai added.

The former general secretary of the HNLC had surrendered before the state police in 2018 and offered to become a mediator for peace talks between the government and the banned outfit.

Cherishterfield's body at Shillong Civil Hospital (TNT Photos)

Meanwhile, Cherishterfield's family members have termed the encounter as a "fake" and "pre-planned" move to eliminate the surrendered cadre. "They just came and shot him. This was a pre-planned move of the police department. Around 3 am, we heard noises coming out from his house and after a few minutes, we heard a gunshot. And after some time, we saw the police carrying him on a stretcher," Cherishterfield's brother, GS Thangkhiew told The Northeast Today (TNT) on Friday.

He also confirmed that the two persons picked up by the police were Cherishterfield's sons. "If they suspected him, the police could have come during the daytime, why come in the middle of the night? Why do they need to shoot him? This is preplanned. They just wanted to eliminate him," Thangkhiew said.


According to him, Cherishter was always home as he was not keeping well due to a chronic infection. We are consulting with lawyers and will see how to proceed forward," Thangkhiew added.

Reacting to reports that a firearm was recovered from Cherishter's house, his brother refused to accept the police's claims and said, "I don't believe it. We have never found any weapons in the house. They have framed him."

The proscribed militant outfit, on the other hand, has expressed shock and dismay over the incident and said that Cherishter had no links "whatsoever" with the HNLC, but had only acted as a mediator between the outfit and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Special Branch (SB).

"All this while, Bah Che was used by the IB and SB to hold discussions with the outfit as a mediator to join the peace talks. The letters that we had sent to the IB and SB had also gone through him," HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw said in a statement on Friday. 

The outfit has also threatened to retaliate and, exact revenge on Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui and two other surrendered cadres, who the HNLC claimed were responsible for the death of Cherishter.

(Edited by Ibankyntiew Mawrie)

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