The Manipur government decided to hand over the probe of the discovery of human skulls from an abandoned school complex in Imphal to a central investigating agency on Monday following public outcry, with rights groups demanding a court-monitored probe into the incident.
Many groups, including the Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association, Manipur (FIDAM) — a body of the families of people who disappeared after being picked by security forces — demanded a thorough inquiry after construction labourers found eight human skulls and skeletal remains at a school site on Thursday and Friday. The BJP and the Manipur People’s Party joined the clamour for the probe.
“The recovery of eight human skulls and a number of skeletons during excavation of Tombisana High School campus… the state police has registered the UD (unnatural death) case and investigation is already on,” a government press release said.
“Considering the sensitivity, complexity and technical issues involved in the investigation, the state government decided to hand over the case to any Central Investigation Agency viz, CBI,NIA and CFSL to investigate and find the truth at the earliest.”
The incident is the latest in a series of alleged custodial deaths and fake encounters in the militancy-hit state that have triggered protests by Indian and international rights groups against security forces’ style of working. In 2004, about a dozen women staged nude protest in Imphal, protesting the alleged rape and murder of 34-year-old Thangjam Manorama at the hands of the Assam Rifles paramilitary forces.
The discovery of the skulls at the Tombisana High school campus site has fuelled people’s anger once again, as paramilitary forces also used the compound as a camp.
Watch: Hundreds go missing in Manipur
FIDAM and Human Rights Alert filed a petition in the high court, requesting it to order a special investigation team with an independent senior investigation officer to probe the incident, besides issuing interim orders to halt construction work at the site until a scientific exhumation is completed.
They also urged the court to monitor the investigation process in the presence of FIDAM members.
“We are compelled to file the case as we have experience government’s indifference attitude in the past,” said FIDAM president K Ranjit, whose brother K Loken also disappeared after he was picked up by paramilitary forces 34 years ago. “Since 1980 till 2011, about 21 persons were reported disappeared after they’re picked up by security forces.”