Guwahati: Bernard Marak, vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Meghalaya unit and a Member of the District Council (MDC) from Tura – accused by the police of “immoral trafficking” following a police raid at a “brothel” – is a former militant-turned-politician.
Meghalaya police raided Marak’s farmhouse, ‘Rimpu Bagan’, Friday evening. According to West Garo Hills Superintendent of Police (SP) Vivekanand Singh, police zeroed-in on the farmhouse following a complaint filed in February this year about the disappearance of a local child.
“Later, we got the child’s statement and she told us that she had been sexually assaulted at one of the rooms in Rimpu Bagan, so that is what was the basis of this raid,” SP Singh said.
He added that during the raid Friday, police detained a total of 68 men and women in addition to seizing 36 vehicles, over 210 litres of alcohol, and 500 packets of contraceptives from Bernard Marak’s farmhouse.
“Some were without clothes…We also found five children, one girl child and four boys. They were being kept in small rooms and we had to break open the doors,” Singh said.
The Meghalaya police have filed an FIR against Bernard Marak under various sections of the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956.
Terming the raid on his farmhouse a “desperate attempt” and “political vendetta” by Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma to “malign his image”, Marak said in a press statement Saturday: “CM is getting desperate as he knows he is losing his South Tura seat to the BJP.”
The BJP is part of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance led by Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP).
In a press statement Sunday, Marak alleged that senior police officials who are “CM’s close men” were given the task to “gun” him down. “My life is in threat from the goons in the police department so, I moved out that night and I avoided their execution plan,” he said.
Marak added that he has sent an email to the Tura SP and Meghalaya DGP stating that he is neither absconding, nor evading arrest and will “co-operate with the investigation” once he is “back on safe route”.
ThePrint reached state BJP president Ernest Mawrie via call for a response on the case against Marak but he refused to comment. The report will be updated if and when a response is received.
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Prior to joining the BJP in 2014, Marak had been a member of the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), a proscribed group with an aim to carve out a separate state for the Garos called “Achik Land”.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the proposal for ‘Achik Land’ envisioned clubbing together Garo-inhabited areas of Assam and Meghalaya’s West Khasi hills district.
This demand for ‘Achik Land’ ebbed after the ANVC, the Union government and the government of Meghalaya signed a ceasefire agreement in 2004 which resulted in all parties engaging in peace talks.
However, 2012 saw the formation of a splinter group of Achik National Volunteer Council that was “anti-talks” — ANVC-B.
Marak – who went by the alias Torik Marak – served as ANVC’s spokesperson till 2012 after which he assumed the role of chairman of the breakaway group ANVC-B.
“The ANVC did not keep to their word after the Suspension of Operation (SOO) and due to an intel deficiency, quite a substantial number of armed cadres were left behind in the camps in the jungles when the group came overground,” said a senior politician from Meghalaya who was in the know-how of the peace process.
“He (Bernard Marak) created the ANVC-B, which included these cadres who were in the jungle,” added the politician, who spoke to ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Both the Garo militant groups — ANVC then under the leadership of Dilash Marak and ANVC-B then under the leadership of Bernard Marak – laid down arms in 2014, two years after the formation of the splinter group. It was after this that Marak joined the BJP.
‘Good party worker’
Marak, who was the West Garo Hills district president of the BJP, quit the party in 2017 following a controversy over a ‘beef party’ organised to mark the third anniversary of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
According to a state BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, Marak rejoined the party in 2019 and started operating from Tura.
“He is a good party worker and was working to expand the party’s base in the Garo hills,” the member said. He, however, added that speculation about BJP projecting Marak as a competitor to Sangma, who was elected from the South Tura constituency, was misplaced.
In May last year, Marak had made allegations about the existence of “ghost projects” in the constituencies of CM Conrad Sangma and his sister and NPP MP from Tura, Agatha Sangma.
“Misuse of public money continues as more ghost projects emerged through RTIs in Chief Minister’s South Tura constituency and Agatha Sangma’s hometown Tura,” Marak had claimed.
Marak won from Tura in the Garo Hills Autonomous District council election held in 2021. That same year, he was appointed the BJP’s convener of Garo Hills region for the term 2020-2023 in the run-up to the 2023 Assembly elections.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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