Social activists and innocents are the latest targets in Manipur’s unending cycle of repression. Divya Gupta reports
EVER SINCE TEHELKA’S damning expose of 27- year-old Chongkham Sanjit’s fake encounter killing two months ago, Manipur has been bubbling over with fear and violence. Waves of demonstrations have rocked the state under the banner of “BT Road Agitation” – indicating the name of the road where the Manipur Police Commandos shot Sanjit dead, killed a pregnant passerby, Rabina Devi, and injured five others. Daily news reports pour in of more fake encounters “rocking” Manipur, jawans killed in an ambush, the government’s plans to set up more police stations, the opposition demanding President’s rule and protests “halting” academics and life in the state. Several militant and civil society organisations have demanded that Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh should resign. Violence on all sides continues unabated.
Singh’s first response after Sanjit’s killing was plain denial, inviting the wrath of Manipur’s people. He was forced to retract his statements. Following immense pressure from civil society organisations, the state government set up a one-man judicial commission headed by retired justice PG Agarwal. No affidavits have been submitted to the commission yet.
In a counter-affidavit to a case filed by Rabina Devi’s family in the Gauhati High Court, Director General of Police, Y Joykumar Singh denied the entire story published by TEHELKA on August 1, 2009. He claimed that “nowadays such photographs can be easily fabricated”. The Apunba Lup, the apex organisation spearheading the ongoing public agitation, has boycotted the judicial inquiry, saying that the TEHELKA story was “evidence enough” for the state government to act.
‘Nowadays such photographs can be easily fabricated,’ says Manipur police chief Y Joykumar Singh
Meanwhile, Manipur is a state under siege. At least 18 people have been detained under the National Security Act. Environmental activist Jiten Yumnam and 18-year-old Naorem Prakash are just two examples, among the dozens of recent cases, who have either been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, shot at or beaten – hardly a strategy for winning the hearts and minds of the people.