Meghalaya BJP Leader 'Brothel' Case: BJP Says State VP Bernard N Marak Framed, Charges Politically Motivated

Six children were rescued and 73 people arrested from a 'brothel' allegedly run by BJP's Meghalaya Vice President Bernard N Marak, as per police.

Photograph of Meghalaya BJP VP Bernard N Marak

After Meghalaya Police claimed that Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) state Vice President Bernard N Marak was running a "brothel" in Tura town, the BJP state chief said Marak was being "framed" and that charges against him should be dropped. 

Meghalaya Police on Saturday said that six children were rescued and 73 people were arrested from a "brothel" allegedly run by Marak at his farmhouse "Rimpu Bagan" in Tura. West Garo Hills district's Superintendent of Police Vivekanand Singh told PTI that the farmhouse owned by militant-turned-politician Marak was raided on the basis of a tip-off. 

He said, "We have rescued six minors —four boys and two girls— who were found locked inside dingy cabin-like unhygienic rooms at Rimpu Bagan, run by Bernard N Marak and his accomplices as a brothel, for the purpose of prostitution."

While the BJP has defended its leader, the Opposition Congress has sought an independent probe into the case.

State BJP President Ernest Mawrie in a statement said that Marak’s life was in danger.

Mwarie said, "The BJP condemns the raid carried out at Edenbari. Bernard Marak has been unjustly framed and maligned. It appears that he is a victim of a political vendetta. I request the government to protect Marak and withdraw the politically motivated charges against him."

The BJP, though a part of the NPP-led ruling MDA coalition in BJP, had fought Autonomous District Council elections independently.

Marak, a former militant leader, comfortably won against a candidate put up by the chief minister in the elections held earlier in the year.

Mwarie clarified that the first floor of the three-storey building at Edenbari comprises 30 rooms, which are let out as homestays, and the second floor houses a hostel for underprivileged children from Garo Hills. Mawrie said Bernard had been supporting them financially.

He said, "Five out of the six children, which the police claimed to have rescued, are minors supported by Bernard. They are students of Edenbari School and Auxilium Convent School in Tura. Their caretaker's wife and child were also taken away by the police, along with another couple who runs a fast food shop on the premises of the building."

He further said that branding the resort a brothel is "highly objectionable and unacceptable". He added, "The resort is running for the last three years and there has never been any complaint whatsoever."

SP Singh said the manager, caretaker and three staffers of the property were also arrested. 

He said on Saturday that Marak's farmhouse is suspected to be the place where a girl was sexually assaulted, and a case was filed in that regard in February. He added that relatives of the girl traced her to Rimpu Bagan.

Singh said, "It was ascertained that the minor was sexually assaulted multiple times over one week, and a case was registered under IPC sections 366A (procuration of minor girl), 376 (punishment for rape) and sections of the POCSO Act."

He said the survivor had told the court that she and her friend were taken to Rimpu Bagan by the accused. The accused persons hired a room there and sexually assaulted her multiple times.

Ha added that multiple verbal complaints were also received from residents of Tura town, alleging that immoral activities were going on at Rimpu Bagan, following which the operation was planned.

Singh said during the raid, police found many young men and women without clothes and drinking. All 68 of them were arrested.

A case was registered under relevant sections of the IPC and the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956.

He said all the children were handed over to District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) for safe custody and further necessary action as per law.

He said in the raid, 27 vehicles, eight two-wheelers, about 400 bottles of liquor, over 500 unused condoms, and crossbows and arrows were seized.

Seventy-three people were arrested for their indulgence in "nefarious activities" as evident from the material seized, the officer said, adding that the farmhouse has 30 small rooms.

Meanwhile, the Congress, calling for an independent investigation into the matter, said care must be taken to ensure evidences are not tampered with.

Congress vice president Ronnie V Lyngdoh said, "An immediate independent investigation should be instituted to unveil the truth behind such nefarious activities in the state, and that, too, close to the chief minister’s residence. Those arrested persons must be sent to judicial custody so that all incriminating information can be extricated from them without the fear of any evidence getting tampered."

Marak is an elected member of the Garo Tribal Autonomous District Council. PTI reported on Saturday that Marak in a statement attacked Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma for the raid at the farmhouse and denied any allegation about running a "brothel".

SP Singh said Marak used to be the chairman of the now-disbanded militant outfit Achik National Voluntary Council (B), since the early 2000s. He added that there are more than 25 criminal cases against Marak.

(With PTI inputs)