Meghalaya BJP vice-president Bernard R. Marak, accused of running a brothel, was arrested in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, police said.
The BJP leader was absconding following a police raid at his 30-room farmhouse on the outskirts of Tura in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district. Five minors were rescued from the place and 73 others, including 23 women, were arrested from the place on July 22.
“Based on our information, the Hapur district police arrested him while he was travelling in a private taxi on the national highway. Our police team will be reaching U.P. tomorrow [Wednesday] and bring him back to Tura for questioning,” Meghalaya’s Director-General of Police L.R. Bishnoi told The Hindu.
Mr. Marak, a former extremist leader, was arrested a day after the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Tura issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
Meghalaya govt. toughens stand
The warrant coincided with Meghalaya’s coalition government toughening its stand against the BJP leader while reacting to State BJP president Ernest Mawrie’s demand for withdrawing all charges “laced with political motivations” against him. The government is led by the National People’s Party (NPP) and BJP is one of its minor partners.
Mr. Mawrie also echoed Mr. Marak in accusing State Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma of orchestrating the raid and linking it to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act case in February as part of a “conspiracy” to destroy his political career.
“We cannot withdraw the charges just because the accused is a BJP vice-president. The law is the same for everyone,” Meghalaya’s Deputy Chief Minister and senior NPP leader Prestone Tynsong told journalists in State capital Shillong.
“Raiding the house of Ministers or political leaders is nothing new. The police raided the farmhouse after working on the case for weeks and collecting all the evidence,” he said.
He insisted that the government, of which the BJP is a minor partner, was not being vindictive against a BJP leader who has been campaigning against graft in the NPP-led Garo Hills Autonomous District Council besides accusing the Chief Minister and his parliamentarian sister, Agatha Sangma, of misappropriating funds through “ghost projects” in their constituencies.
Mr. Tynsong insisted the government was not being vindictive. “There is a serious case against him and the police should be allowed to do their job,” he said.
Assembly panel steps in
The Meghalaya Assembly Committee on Empowerment of Women has asked the State’s Social Welfare Department to update it on the status of the five minors rescued from the BJP leader’s farmhouse. A report has been sought on August 8.
“The rescue of the minors after the raid on July 22 has been verified. It is an offence against which women must rally together. It is our duty to highlight such crimes,” committee’s chairperson and suspended Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh said.