NEW DELHI/SHILLONG: The Indian Army has killed two persons in Meghalaya reportedly mistaking them to be militants during a night patrol. The incident has triggered anger and protests in the state, with the people demanding swift action against those responsible for the crime.

A Rajasimla school teacher Alphius M Momin (35) and Sweetbirth D Marak (30), a vendor who sold forms for challans at the Dainadubi check gate, were travelling on a motorcycle at around 8:40 in the night when they were shot dead by army personnel who were out on patrol in the area.

Speaking to The Citizen, Youth Congress President, Gabriel Wahlang said, “We want a magisterial inquiry into the matter. This has become very common. Killing for mistaken identity appears to be the new ‘safe options’. Imagine if two armymen were killed by the civilian police. This is not acceptable and authorities will have to come up with results”.

Meanwhile, the families of the two civilians in the Rajasimla area on Wednesday night have filed FIRs with North Garo Hills Police seeking action.

The incident took place near Konchikol, 2 km from Kharkutta Bazar, where the army personnel from the Gurkha Regiment, deployed at Rangjuli town in neighbouring Assam, had reportedly been conducting an operation inside the North Garo Hills to flush out suspected Garo militants.

According to the version given to the district police by the army, they allege that the motorcyclist did not heed warnings to stop and tried to drive through forcing the personnel to open fire. The army also claims that the two-wheeler did not sport a number plate and had ‘faulty’ headlights when it was ordered to halt.

Anger is brewing in the region following the incident and more so because the army allegedly abandoned the bodies at the side of the road after the shooting. The Kharkutta police outpost personnel were reportedly informed about the incident by the public. Although the army is authorized to operate within 20 km inside Meghalaya territory for counter-insurgency operations, yet it is mandatory to inform the local police and take a local policeman as a guide.

In the case of Wednesday’s killing, neither was the police informed nor did the army take along a police guide in its operation.

Local MLA of Kharkutta and Parliamentary Secretary Cherak W Momin has expressed his anger against the army targeting innocent civilians inside Garo Hills. After a visit to the site he demanded a magisterial enquiry and pointed out that neither the district SP nor any senior police officer was informed about the operation by the army.

Speaking to The Citizen, DGP Meghalaya, Rajiv Mehta said, “The police is certainly looking into the matter. We have already taken it up with the Army and they are cooperating well. The top Army officials are in touch with us. There will be fast and proper action be taken in the matter. The investigations are going on and police has to first finish with the desired formalities to take the process forward”.