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Held for ‘running brothel’, Meghalaya BJP vice-president now arrested for ‘hiking’ food prices

Bernard Marak had forcibly raised the prices of food items in Tura, say police. The action came a day after a court sent him to 14-day judicial custody in an explosives haul case.

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Guwahati: Meghalaya BJP vice-president Bernard Marak, who was arrested in two cases including the one related to running a brothel, was rearrested Wednesday for ‘forcibly’ hiking the prices of food items in Tura.

The action came a day after the Tura chief judicial magistrate allowed Marak’s arrest for illegal activities carried out by the Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce at his behest. Later, Marak was remanded in police custody for five days.

On August 23, a press statement from the Meghalaya Police mentioned reports from general public and newspaper articles about the ‘price hike’ of snacks, fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, etc. “The prices were hiked a few months back based on the instigation of office bearers of an organisation which claims to be the ‘Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce’ being operated under the directions of one Bernard N. Marak,” the statement read.

Marak was aided by other persons and “the organisation has been found to be collecting huge amounts of money from the shopkeepers in the name of ‘membership fee’ and ‘monthly renewal fee’,” the statement added.

Superintendent of Police, West Garo hills, Vivekanand Singh told ThePrint that the accused in the case had illegally taken over the business body.  “They started collecting money from the shopkeepers, which was an amount bigger than what they claimed. This is reflected in the prices. Further, there was also arm-twisting as they pressured the shopkeepers to raise the prices,” he said.

Marak was previously booked under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, after six minors were rescued from his farmhouse during a police raid in July.

On August 30, Marak, a member of the Garo Hills Area District Council, was sent to 14-day judicial custody in the case related to the confiscation of explosives from his farmhouse at Tura in West Garo Hills district.

Police had seized 35 gelatin sticks, 100 detonators, four crossbows, and 15 arrows. The BJP state vice-president was booked under the Explosives Substances Act in the case a week after the raid.

ThePrint has reached out to BJP state president Ernest Mawrie for his statement. The copy will be updated once his response is received.

Also Read: Brothel raid on Meghalaya BJP vice-chief strains ties with NPP 6 months before polls

‘Businessmen coerced to pay for NOC’

In its press statement, the police had claimed that the office bearers of the Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce have been threatening the non-tribal businessmen in Tura either to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Marak or risk not having their trade licences renewed.

“Huge sum of money was extorted from these businessmen for the issue of this certificate, which was completely illegal,” the statement added.

Marak has now been arrested under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 384 (extortion), and 417 (punishment for cheating).

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