Meghalaya BJP leader Bernard Marak has gone into “hiding” to avoid arrest, following the state police’s raid at his farmhouse in Tura, in West Garo Hills district. The police have informed that the militant-turned-politician Bernard Marak was allegedly operating a sex racket out of his farmhouse Rimpu Bagan. They also said that it was being used as a “brothel”. Marak was also vice president of the BJP’s Meghalaya unit.
Speaking with news agency PTI, West Garo Hills SP Vivekanand Singh said that his team raided a resort based on the tip-off last week, on Friday night. The team rescued at least six minor girls from unhygienic rooms in the farmhouse.
Following the raid, at least 73 people were arrested, and a case of “immoral trafficking” was registered against Marak, in Tura.
The West Garo Hill police also suspected that it is the same place where a girl was sexually harassed earlier this year in February, and a case was registered in this regard under the POSCO Act, 2012.
Police said that all the rescued children have been handed over to the District Child Protection Officer for safe custody and further necessary action according to law.
How Was The Sex Racket Busted?
SP Singh said in a press release that his team was working to bust illegal activities over the past couple of months, following multiple complaints that a sex racket is being run at Rimpu Bagan.
On July 22, the police launched a raid at the farmhouse, where several young boys and girls were openly drinking on the premises. The police also recovered hundreds of liquor bottles, packets of condoms, contraceptive pills, and dozens of vehicles during the raid.
Following the raid, the search team detained about 68 people for interrogation. The police said that some managed to run away taking advantage of the darkness, and running over crushed liquor bottles. They further claimed that six minors were also found locked inside dingy cabins and unhygienic rooms. Reportedly, all the children were in a state of shock and were unable to speak properly.
Speaking with the Hindu, SP Singh said that Marak is on the run since the police raided his farmhouse. The police believe that he is in Delhi and are trying to arrest him.
Marak Dismisses Charges
Marak has categorically denied all charges against him, and accused Chief Minister Conrad Sangma of harbouring a political vendetta against him. He further said that he is not on the run but is trying to save his life since he is facing a “threat” of encounter from the police.
In a video message, Marak claimed that CM Sangma has ordered the local police to “gun him down”, as the BJP is strengthening its position in the state. He also said that the CM is trying to malign his and the BJP’s image among the people.
Dismissing the allegation of running a brothel at his farmhouse, Marak said that he was helping underprivileged children with their studies.
Meanwhile, the Meghalaya BJP unit has also condemned the police raid at Marak’s premises, and rubbished the charges against the state unit vice president.
Ernest Mawrie, president of the Meghalaya BJP unit, came out in support of Marak and said that the police action was a political vendetta. “I have personally spoken to respected persons in Tura and surrounding areas and I have come to the conclusion that Marak has been unjustly framed and maligned,” said Mawrie.
Urging the Meghalaya government to withdraw all charges against Marak and give him protection, Mawrie said that the police must protect the BJP leader who is facing a threat to his life.
Marak: From Militant To Politician
Marak was one of the prominent members of the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), before joining the BJP in 2014.
The ANVC was an extremist outfit set up in 1995, which demanded a separate state for the Garos, a Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group living in Garo Hills, in the Garo-Khasi ranges of Meghalaya.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the ANVC was reportedly formed with the assistance of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Issak Muivah (NSCN-IM). However, it has supposedly severed its links with the Naga outfit and with the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
The portal also claims that the ANVC worked with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). ULFA is an organisation banned by the Indian government. It seeks a separate nation-state of Assam for the Assamese indigenous people.
According to the portal, the ANVC has some of its camps in Bangladesh. The outfit is also involved in fake currency circulation initiated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In Meghalaya, the ANVC, along with the other prominent militant outfit – Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) – abets this infusion of fake currency, and in turn, receives considerable operating funds. Extortion remains the major source of funding for the ANVC.
Marak joined the BJP in 2014, and took charge of growing the party in the Garo Hills region. In 2017, he was forced to quit the party following a “beef party” he organised to celebrate the PM Narenda Modi-led government’s three years in power.
In 2019, the BJP urged him to rejoin the party and start work in his region. The local party leaders consider Marak as the main competitor to CM Sangma, especially in the Garo Hills region.
In 2021, the BJP appointed Marak as the party convener of Garo Hills region after his victory from Tura in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council election.
The police have said that Marka is accused of extortion from the local business community members, and that there are more than 25 criminal cases against him.