ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A War on Manipur's People

Manipuris continue to campaign against extrajudicial killings by the men in uniform.

“Is there a war going on in your state?”, the Supreme Court recently asked the Manipur government while considering its reply on the issue of the Armed Forces (Special Powers)Act, 1958 (AFSPA). The apex court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the Extrajudicial Execution Victims’ Families Association and Human Rights Alert, based on the latter’s documentation of 1,582 extrajudicial killings over the last 30 years in Manipur. The mothers and widows of those who have died or disappeared have asked that a special investigation team (SIT) handle the cases, ensure that eyewitnesses and other family members can give evidence, that the latter be financially compensated and that no law come in the way of prosecution of the men in uniform in cases of fake encounters.

The question the apex court asked is relevant not just for Manipur, where AFSPA gives arbitrary powers to army personnel when dealing with suspected insurgents with zero accountability for their acts. Similar extrajudicial killings have taken place elsewhere in India where AFSPA does not apply. These cases of fake encounter deaths have exercised the public as they illustrate the flagrant violation of human rights by men in uniform. The petition gives details of several cases wherein young men going about their daily routine were picked and killed in cold blood by the security agencies and the Manipur police. No criminal investigations or departmental inquiries were conducted despite hundreds of complaints. The few magisterial inquiries that took place were conducted in secrecy without intimation to family members and eyewitnesses and, needless to say, resulted in exonerations. The petition points out that this has only emboldened the police and security forces who kill and torture without any fear and has led to the breakdown of the criminal justice system in Manipur where citizens simply do not have the protection of Article 21 that guarantees the right to life.

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