In Manipur, families of over 1500 victims of extrajudicial execution are eagerly awaiting justice as the SC appointed Inquiry Committee reached Imphal on Saturday to begin probe into the summary executions of seven unarmed civilians. The independent probe team led by former SC Justice Santosh Hegde, former Chief ECI JM Lyngdoh and retired Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar reached Imphal on Saturday amid an ardent tone among the public who are eager to find out the truth about 1528 cases of reported fake encounter killings. Laishram Gyaneshori, President of Thangmeiband Women Society observed, “We have been demanding justice for a long time; my appeal to the new probe team is to expose these cruel army personnel and police commandos who have slaughtered our sons.”
Acknowledging the positive response of Supreme Court towards the families of the victims of extrajudicial executions, family members and human right activists are hoping that upcoming independent probe will deliver a long denied justice, and expose the harsh truth of summary killings of innocent and unarmed victims. Ningthoujam Neena Devi, one of the petitioners who filed the PIL on behalf of over 2000 bereaved families said, “My only wish is to let the world know how innocent people in Manipur are reeling under critical human right violations. I have already lost my faith in the system, so I am hoping that humanity itself will save further loss of innocent lives.”
Expressing strong doubts against the credibility and intentions of security personnel engaging in CI Ops in the state, a Supreme Court bench led by Aftab Alam on January 4 had ordered an independent probe in the alleged killings of Chongtham Umakanta, Elangbam Kiranjit, Akoijam Priyobrata, Kh Orsonjit, Phisubam Md Azad and cousins Nameirakpam Nobo and Nameirakpam Gobin. In revealing information from fact finding NGOs, there seemed to be serious doubts on the authenticity of report filed by the security force about the encounter killings of Elangbam Kiranjit and Chongtham Umakanta. According to findings of the respective district magistrates, both murders were committed at the same place and under same circumstance to another established fake encounter of L Satish. According to post mortem reports, both victims had severe torture marks which were perpetrated before shooting them. Even the Supreme Court seemed to have similar views on the rest of the victims in the six cases to be probed. “How can a 12 year old be a terrorist?” was the remark of Justice Ranjana citing the killing of Md Azad on 4 March 2009. Substantiating doubts, Azad’s teacher at thePhubakchaoHigh Schoolwho witnessed his student being gruesomely murdered said, “I saw Azad being pushed and kicked at back by the commandoes and dragged to the paddy field in full view of half the villagers. In a shocking turn of event, two of the police commandos who were standing behind fired at the boy when he begged for his life with folded palms. The boy began writhing violently from the bullet shots. It was extremely painful to watch so shouted at the police to stop. In response, the police commandos fired another shot at the boy after which the writhing ceased.” More than a dozen people claimed that they saw the ruthless killing of the child by security personnel.
An ardent atmosphere prevails within and outside Manipur with high expectations to find out the facts about the existence of state sponsored genocide in the name of counter insurgency. “Right now, Manipur is in chaos where human lives have no value; we are falling into a deep abyss of darkness and fear. As a mother, I strongly appeal the concerned authority to save our children and future generations from this futile slaughtering,” appealed Soibam Momon, the co-convenor of Sharmila Kanba Lup. For people like Kh Lata, mother of Kh Orsonjit, positive feedback from the SC has given hope of fulfilling justice which was denied for all these years. Lata Devi expressed, “I always knew that my son was innocent, but my plea for justice have been ignored by the government and all concerned authority till now. My 19 year old son was a mere supplier of generator fuel for Tata Indicom Towers; the police tortured and killed him for the money he was carrying.”
In the hearing on January 4, the SC also assured to probe the validity of AFSPA, while conveying its cognizance against the extrajudicial impunity of security forces in Manipur. A public notice issued by the Secretary of the Inquiry Committee, PS Moorthy also urged willing individuals to file their affidavits to corroborate previous cases of extrajudicial executions and other excess acts of the armed forces under AFSPA by evening of 3 March. In this regard, RTI activist and Chairperson of HRI, Mr Joykumar expressed discontentment over the short duration given by the commission for submission of affidavits. HRI Chairman also sought a special witness protection policy from the concerned central authority, so that more petitioners can file their affidavits without apprehension. Judging from the information received so far, Joykumar’s observation seemed to be reasonable even as 32 writ petitions have been filed to the commission on behalf of the security personnel involved, while only seven affidavits have been received from the victims’ side till filing of this report.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen woman activists, family members and kins of many victims have also filed affidavits on Sunday to re-open investigation into the killings of their loved ones by security personnel under suspicious circumstances. Among the petitioner was young Yumnam Abhisek who lost two of his brother, Yumnam Inaocha in 1997 and Yumnam Bhumi in 2005.
Activist and President of All Manipur Khunai Kanba Lup (AMKIL) Phanjoubam Shakhi Devi stated, “A boy was snatched from his mother’s arms at the dead of the night and then beaten to an inch of his life, while the mother and the victim’s brother watched helplessly. Then he was shot at the courtyard in front of their eyes; such is the madness.”
Mutum Ibemhal, another petitioner added, “I have seen many inquiries and investigations, but till now we have not heard those criminals in uniforms being punished according to law. But this time, I am hoping that justice will be served. Therefore my humble request to the three member commission is to expose nothing, but the truth that we have been witnessing so that the security personnel are given appropriate punishment.”
Meanwhile, apprehension still runs high among many people about the upcoming independent probe. One such individual, Thokchom Ramani Devi, the General Secretary of the All Manipur Social Reform and Development Samaj expressed strong doubts that justice will be served citing many previous inquiries where hundreds of security personnel were convicted of summary killings, rapes and other human rights violation, but it is yet to confirm whether they were punished or not.
“In the name of AFSPA and other black laws, the security forces has committed extreme crimes like the forced disappearances of Yumlembam Sanamacha, Rajkumar Lokendro. A woman was raped in front of her paralysed husband and another tribal lady was raped in full view of her in-laws. These are pure facts and there were witnesses, but nothing was done against the culprit. Many inquiries have been done and concluded and I highly doubt the upcoming independent probe will be fruitfull,” said Thokchom Ramani.
It may be mentioned that the SC bench led by Justice Aftab Alam was instrumental in booking the culprits involved in Ishrat Jehan fake encounter killings during the 2004Gujaratriot. In a hearing on December 6, 2012, the bench led by Justice Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai had already acknowledged that the situation in Manipur is not normal and that a probe is needed into various encounter killings in Manipur. An earlier ruling from the special bench had also rapped the attitude of the Union Home Ministry and the CM Ibobi Singh led Manipur Government on the unabated allegations of extrajudicial killings, while raising serious concern on the futility of the National Human Rights Commission to provide any information.