A grave concern regarding the credibility and validity of police commando unit in Manipur has cropped up following a report which suggests that the the Manipur Police Commands might have been branded as ‘Special Unit’ without appropriate legalities.
According to highly placed sources, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member Inquiry Commission on six allegations of extra-judicial killings in the state that had raised incriminate questions about the procedure of instituting Police Commando Units in Manipur. The unit has been allegedly involved in about 1,500 cases of fake encounter killings in the past decade.
In this regard, the probe commission has summoned some of the top brass police officers of Manipur that include L Kailun – IG (Law & Order), Clay Khongsai – DIG (Range IV) and Romanus Angam – Imphal East SP to quizzed about the functioning and management of these ‘Special Police Units’ that have been termed as ‘highly corrupt militia’.
Indicating that the Manipur Government and the state police may have overstepped the legal limits while engaging in counter-insurgency action, the probe team has sought relevant documents to authenticate the legal liabilities for establishing the unit. Official statements say that the Commandos were initially appointed as ‘Civil police’ – a clandestine unit for Counter-Insurgency Operations – following a joint resolution of the Union Home Affairs Ministry and the Manipur Government in the early 90s.
But, the State Home Ministry has yet to show relevant records of the resolution as well as the appropriate process to validate the institution of such ‘special unit’ under the law. Contradicting the official claim, another report revealed that the commando unit was established under internal administrative procedure within the State Police Department. It is further alleged that personnel of the Commando Unit in each of the four valley districts in Manipur are informally selected by the District SPs to replace the army and central paramilitary forces after the withdrawal of AFSPA from the municipal areas of Imphal East and West.
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU), which was established under the same procedure, was defunct by SP of Imphal West Jayenta Kumar amidst controversies. Several civil society members have openly charged that the SIU was dismissed without proper authorisation because the unit was on the verge of exposing a rampant smuggling ring of contraband drugs involving some top officials of the Manipur Government. While clarifying, Jayenta Kumar had claimed that the SIU was a mere unit of the Imphal West Police and hence the SIU was not directly ‘liable’ to the state government.
On 4 January 2013, a special bench of the Supreme Court had ordered independent probes on more than 1,500 pending cases of fake encounter killings in Manipur, taking cognizance of a PIL filed by families of extra-judicial execution victims (EEVFAM) against the incriminate violations of human rights by security forces. Hitherto, the SC has already constituted a three-member inquiry commission comprising of former ECI JM Lyndoh and former Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar.
Often associated with several anti-social activities and excessive cases of human rights violations, Manipuri Commandos along with the Assam Rifles have been accused of staging fake encounters to earn gallantry merits. Substantiating the charge, N Nungshibabu Singh, a personnel of the Imphal East CDO who is implicated in the alleged fake encounter killings of two civilians, was awarded the President’s Police Medal for gallantry at this year’s Republic Day function. In a judicial inquiry in 2010, Singh, along with three other cops, was found guilty of killing cousins Mutum Rajen Singh and Mutum Herojit Singh in October 2008.
In the judicial inquiry report, District Judge M Manojkumar Singh said that the commandos failed to explain the circumstances under which Mutum Rajen Singh was killed on 14 October 2008. It was further reported that the implicated personnel had failed to establish that there was an exchange of firing. In his testimony, a witness told the court that he saw the two cousins speaking to the commandos on Lambui Road in Imphal East. When he stopped to see what was happening, he was waved at by the commandos signaling him to leave. A few minutes later, he heard gunshots from the direction of the road where he had seen the commandos.
In the report, Judge Singh writes, “Therefore, I have decided that the husband of the petitioner, namely Mutum Rajen Singh, was killed by the personnel of Manipur Police commandos, Imphal East Unit on 14 October 2008 at about 6.30 pm after having (him) in their custody, in a fake encounter at Lambui Lambi Porompat, Imphal East District. I have also decided that there was no exchange of firing or encounter with the Manipur police commandos.”
RK Suresh is a freelance journalist based in Imphal.