Breakdown in the Rule of Law in Manipur

Published on August 4, 2009

By George T. Haokip
MANIPUR with a population of some 23 lakhs is a land where human rights have no place. Here life is mort hen a hell-abode of death. One may be innocent but still not sure of what will happen in the next moment of his life when travel at night or when stopped by the security forces, with few money in the pocket. They are enough to end up one’s life in the hand of state security forces with that encounter drama.

The promise for security and justice to its people given in the Indian constitution  have  no meaning here when hundreds of innocent people have been killed, raped, tortured by the security forces without any punishment in this part of the country. In Manipur at least three hundred  people have been killed, most of them in fake encounter in 2008 alone. (Read Jiten Yumnam’s  MANIPUR: AN OBSCURE KILLING FIELD IN ASIA; The Imphal Free Press, 30 December 2008) “The situation in Manipur is described by Human Right Watch as “a cycle of unpunished violence, including killings, by security forces and armed groups.”

The firing incident at BT Road in Imphal on July 23, 2009 in which two innocent lost their lives in a fake encounter is shocking. It was a stage-managed encounter. Such incident however was not a new thing in Manipur. In the past, many innocent have been killed by our acting too smart security forces – The Manipur Police Commandos in the valley who are supposed to stand by the state in its hour of need. All their lusty action ends up with a protest from the public with a day or two in the form of strike and others, thereafter, the chapter closed for ever until the encouraging forces would make  a new incident like if they are blood thirsty.

In several cases, security forces allegedly robbed and killed people, but then claimed that the deaths resulted from “encounters” – shootouts with armed groups. No law authorises the police to torture suspects, to kill them in fake encounters or to humiliate women by rape, or by otherwise violating their modesty. No law authorises the police to open fire on peaceful processions or set whole villages on fire. Such atrocities are committed because the police know that nothing will happen to them if they violate the law. The superior police officers normally side with them and so does the concerned government. This is what exactly happened in Manipur.

The state government’s control over the police is one of the basic tenets of a democratic system. The government must understand the principle of civilian control and its implication. These forces in fact have no respect for human rights. They have killed their own brethren even at the cost of violating the law of the land. Madhu Chandra (Who Kills who in Manipur) have written “Honest question, every citizen of Manipur need to ask, is about who actually kills who in Manipur? Do not be surprised by the fact that the victimization of killing culture does not to all communities in Manipur. It is killing between Meiteis. Be it by state security forces or militants, it is killing of Meiteis by their own people.”

Today we need to introspect on how our traditional bond of love have become so changed in the Manipuri society. “No one born after 1980s will ever know that the princely state Manipur was known for its beauty and social fabric among its different communities, but the image of the state has totally changed. Who should hold responsible for hell like situation in Manipur? If no concrete steps are taken on time, the state will face more bloodshed in days to come” wrotes Chandra.

Life as a matter of fact has become too insecure. No life is protected. Why police repeated fake encounters, lock-up deaths, third degree torture, frame-ups which at times created public outcry are never attended to by the government? Human rights for whom? The Chief Minister who also holds the portfolio of Home should act fast and terminate those involved in the fake encounter without any delay after Tehalka minute by minute photo. The ruling government has failed to provide safety to the general public.

The situation in Manipur is nothing less than a breakdown in the rule of law. Immediate sincere and honest central government intervention as stated by the North East Help Line is needed to solve our decades-old problem of Manipur. The law and order in fact have gone out of hand under Shri O.Ibobi Singh government.

North East Help Line and Christian Council in a press release on August 5, 2009 stated, “The state and public of Manipur have suffered enough in the hands of extra forces of both the state and non-state. People are longing for peace, normal life and development in the state. The ruling government has failed to provide safety to general public and give any development schemes to the state.”

The writer is a research scholar at Manipur University, India.