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Less and less room to hide

A fact-finding mission to Manipur in 2009 found that a fourth of the prisoners in the jails have been detained under the National Security Act, which empowers the government to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner ‘prejudicial to the security of India’.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2010 23:50 IST

Three weeks after some semblance of normalcy returned to Manipur — with the reopening of educational institutions after a four-month forced disruption and the positive news that the Central Bureau of Investigation will probe the 2009 ‘encounter’ deaths of Sanjit and Rubina Devi — comes another reason to cheer. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought an explanation from the Manipur government as to why reports of 111 cases of alleged police encounters were not forwarded to the panel. Encounter killings carried out by security forces, protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, are a regular feature in the state. Every time such incidents take place, there are claims and counter-claims about their veracity. In such a situation, the state’s disregard for a due process of inquiry is bound to raise questions about its intentions. Such controversies will never be resolved and peace will not return to Manipur unless the alleged excesses are impartially inquired into and the reports made public.

Till date, inquiry reports of ‘sensitive’ cases, like that of Manorama Devi, are yet to be made public. In fact, the government routinely tries to derail any move by civil society representatives to find the truth behind such incidents. Take for example the case of Wahengbam Joykumar. In 2007, Mr Joykumar filed a Right to Information petition with two demands: first, he wanted the opening of the inquiry files and action taken reports on encounter killings; second, he sought the copies of magisterial inquiry reports into the violation of human rights. Initially, the state public information officer (SPIO) refused to provide any details. When the Manipur Information Commissioner directed the SPIO to provide the information, the state government filed a writ plea with the Imphal Bench of the Gauhati High Court. Two years on, the case is yet to be resolved.

Additionally, the usual response of the state has been to stifle protests. A fact-finding mission to Manipur in 2009 found that a fourth of the prisoners in the jails have been detained under the National Security Act, which empowers the government to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner ‘prejudicial to the security of India’. For New Delhi, has Manipur become an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ case? Hopefully not. Other than being a state of strategic importance, let’s not forget that it is a part of the ‘Union’ of ‘democratic’ India.