By Miraj Shah Kori
40-year-old Abdul Gaffar, a daily wage earner from Lilong Usoipokpi in Thoubal District was allegedly picked up by a joint team of Manipur police commandos and 26th Assam Rifles personnel at about 2 am on December 20, 2018. His family reportedly found his body deposited at the mortuary of Jawaharlal Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal East.
The family claimed that the security forces did not issue any arrest memo. Protesting the arrest, locals of Usoipokpi blocked the Imphal to Moreh stretch of National Highway 102. Abdul Gaffar is survived by a wife and five children and is the only daily wage earner for his family.
Manipur Government has instituted a magisterial inquiry into the death of Abdul Gaffar. The Thoubal district magistrate, Haobam Rosita, has been appointed as inquiry authority to conduct an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Abdul Gaffar and to avoid recurrence of such incident in the future, reads an order issued by the deputy secretary, Rashini Yengkhom.
The magistrate has been asked to submit the inquiry report to the Government within 30 days. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, on December 21, informed the recently concluded Manipur Legislative Assembly session that five police personnel who were involved in the incident have been suspended.
In the 6th assembly session of 11 Manipur Legislative Assembly, opposition MLA Joykishan in a calling attention motion asked what action has taken against the Assam Rifles involved in the case and why actions have taken up only against the State Police. Responding to the question, Biren said, ”State Police is under the State Government while the Assam Rifles is under the Ministry of Home Affairs and I have verbally informed the Home Ministry and requested to hand over the involved Assam Rifles personnel to the State police.”
A memorandum of understanding was signed also signed on 20 December, between the Manipur government and the joint action committee formed against the killing. The Government also assured to provide ex-gratia as per rule and to provide suitable job to the next of the Kin.
The Thoubal district police, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place on Sunday wrote to the commanding officer of 26th Assam Rifles to furnish the names and particulars of the officers and men who were allegedly involved in the death of Gaffar. The alleged culprits were also asked to appear before the Thoubal police for recording their statements. However, it is reported that none of the personnel has turned up for the recording their statement.
Committee on Human Rights (COHR) has vehemently condemned the incident in the strongest terms.
“The general public is aware of the fact that above the violations and atrocities committed by Indian security forces, Manipur Police, who is the law enforcing agency, had taken the law into their own hands and involved in several fake encounter cases,” said a release signed by secretary, COHR, Okram Nutan Kumar Singh.
This is one of the rare cases that has resurfaced after a long period of time since the fake encounter case of Rabina and Sanjit followed by a huge State-wide protest for many months after the release of the photo evidence of fake encounter by Tehelka magazine in 2009. Earlier before 2009, such similar incidents were the frequent experience for the local people of Manipur facing the inhuman treatment including extrajudicial killing, rape, enforced disappearance, torture and physical harassment by the Security personals under the blanket impunity of AFSPA. The latest incident has brought the apprehension among the local peoples that the earlier days of gross human rights violation of the local people by the security personnel’s would return again.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had appointed a committee headed by former apex court judge Justice Santosh Hegde to probe six “sample cases of alleged fake encounter” in Manipur. Former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh and former Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar Singh were other members of the committee. Santosh Hegde committee found that none of the encounters probed by it was carried out in “self-defence” by the security forces. The committee also found out that the encounters were not “genuine” and the victims did not have any criminal record.
Last year, during a hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe into extra-judicial killings in Manipur in which 1,528 people were killed in encounters by security forces in the state between 2000 and 2012. The Indian Army, the Assam Rifles and the Manipur police have been accused of staging encounters and killing civilians in Manipur. The forces enjoy special protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, a draconian law imposed in the state.
According to the Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) -the petitioner in the present Supreme Court case, such a huge number of killings that took place in the state has been attributed to AFSPA. The activists have been alleging that the AFSPA gives blanket protection to the Army, the Assam Rifles and the Manipuri state forces to kill with impunity.