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As Manipur goes to polls, demand for justice in extrajudicial killings gains momentum

By Twocircles.net Staff Reporter

Imphal: Manipur goes to elections in the next few days, and this time the Congress government in the state its biggest challenge yet, given the economic blockades in the past few months along with the general disillusionment among the residents, especially regarding the extrajudicial killings.

The issue of extrajudicial killings has taken centre stage in poll-bound Manipur after the CBI reopened a case of ‘fake encounter’ killing involving reformed militant Chungkham Sanjit and Rabina Devi, a pregnant woman.

Sanjit and Rabina were killed by police commandoes in Imphal’s crowded BT Road in July, 2009. Thounaojam Herojit, a police constable who shot dead Sanjit, had earlier claimed that he had executed the order given by additional SP (Imphal West) Akoijam Jhalajit Singh.

With the CBI reopening the case, the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government finds itself on a sticky wicket as the assembly polls are just four days away. Jhalajit, who is believed to have ordered the killing, has obtained an interim anticipatory bail from the district and sessions court, Imphal West, on Thursday.

A group of protesters burnt the effigies of the Chief Minister O. Ibobi, SP Ak Jhalajit and retired DGP Yumnam Joykumar on Thursday at Majorkhul Machin Main road, Imphal.

‘Send the killers to Jail, we want Justice’ echoed across Majorkhul main road. Protesters were marching with a huge banner which said, ‘Send the killers to jail’.

There were mothers walking in clutches, widows, orphans in tears and asking for justice of their beloved sons, fathers, and husbands who had lost their life during the fake encounter.

The protesters told media that the above mentioned three individuals are involved in the infamous Sanjit’s  fake encounter case. The government is trying to deviate the issue with the coming of state assembly election which is not acceptable.

Renu Takhellambam, vice president, Extra-Judicial Execution Families Association (EEVFAM) said till now the government has failed to give justice to the victims of the fake encounter.

Under AFSPA many innocent have been killed till now but in Sanjit case, Herojit has already confessed to the CBI about the involvement of powerful persons, yet justice is still delayed.Instead of playing a blame game to come into power, they should have done necessary things to give justice to the people, she added.

The CBI reopened the case following an appeal made by Sanjit’s mother Taratombi Devi in view of the disclosure made by Herojit.

The extrajudicial killings and misuse of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are the issues for which people of Manipur have been protesting for a long time. Irom Sharmila Chanu, who is now contesting polls against chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, had launched a crusade against AFSPA by fasting for 16 years. “I have entered the electoral fray to repeal AFSPA and end all fake encounters. I understand the pain of those who lost their near and dear ones because of extra-judicial killings,” said Sharmila.

Though human rights issues were raised by opposition parties during the last election in 2012, Congress somehow managed to counter them.

What is even more interesting is that the BJP, which has until now ignored extrajudicial killings of similar nature in its own states like Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, is trying to rake up the issue this time. The saffron party is campaigning against all 1,528 cases of extrajudicial killings, most of which took place during 15 years of Congress regime under Okram. Earlier, a three-member team of BJP MPs, led by Prasad Javadekar, had inquired into Sanjit’s killing and submitted a report to the party saying that it was a fake encounter.

The Supreme Court had taken up a petition on 1,528 fake encounter cases in Manipur from 1979 to 2012. The petitions were filed by an NGO, Extra-Judicial Execution Victims’ Families Manipur (EEVFAM), and rights’ activist Suresh Singh. In January 2013, the apex court had appointed a three-member commission to probe whether six cases picked up randomly from among the 1,528 cases were ‘encounter’ deaths where security forces had fired in self-defence against members of armed groups or extra-judicial executions. The committee found all six cases to be fake encounters.

Hearing the petitions in July 2016, the Supreme Court maintained that the armed forces cannot use excessive force and that the Army can conduct its own inquiries into accusations of extrajudicial killings till the court examines them. The apex court had also asked the amicus curiae to furnish details of alleged fake encounter cases in Manipur.

Talking to media some angry protesters said, “all of them should go behind the bars, and we are not happy to know that among this three Yumnam Joykumar who is going to contest this election from Uripok Kendra from National People’s Party is also involved in this gruesome act and God won’t spare him either.”