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Premises of Kuki professor’s two Meitei lawyers vandalised

Sep 03, 2023 04:56 AM IST

Two lawyers in Imphal, India were attacked and their homes vandalized by a group of unidentified people. The lawyers had represented a Kuki professor in court.

The residences and chambers of two Meitei lawyers in Imphal were vandalised on Friday by a group of unidentified people allegedly as retaliation against them for representing a Hyderabad-based Kuki professor in court.

Premises of Kuki professor’s two Meitei lawyers vandalised
Premises of Kuki professor’s two Meitei lawyers vandalised

The two lawyers, Soraisham Chittaranjan and Victor Chongtham, and two others had submitted an application in Manipur high court on Thursday, withdrawing themselves as counsels for professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing, who teaches at the Hyderabad University, citing “personal difficulties”. The court approved their application on the same day.

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“On Friday, around 2.15pm, a large mob came to my residence at Singjamei Chingamakha Maibam Leirak locality in Imphal West district and started damaging the house and my chamber,” said Chittranjan. “The entire house and its contents were damaged.”

The Singamei police station has registered a case and stated in its report that around 300 people stormed the house of the lawyer “as news spread that he (Chittaranjan)” was the counsel “of a Kuki community case in Manipur High Court in connection with ongoing communal clashes between Meitei and Kuki community”.

“The mob became tense and violent and destroyed his house occupied along with his brothers S Jiteshwor and S Manoranjan...as a result of which most of the house and household items were totally damaged, but luckily (there was) no casualty,” said the police report, which HT has seen.

The first information report (FIR) has been lodged under Sections 147, 149, 448, 445 and 427 of Indian Penal Code for rioting, unlawful assembly, house trespass and causing loss and damage to property. Investigation is underway, police said.

“Though my family members were lucky to have escaped without any physical harm, police haven’t provided us with any security,” said Chittaranjan. “At present, we are taking shelter in a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) guest house.”

About five hours after the attack on Chittaranjan’s house, a mob targeted the residence and chamber of another lawyer, Victor Chongtham (who was also a counsel for Hausing), located at Khonghampat Awang Leikai locality in Imphal West district.

The mob allegedly pelted stones at Chongtham’s house and damaged the walls and windows of the house. No one was injured in the attack. The lawyer was away in Agartala at the time of the incident.

“The attack took place between 7pm and 10pm on Friday. Most members of the mob were residents of the area. There were some women too. The police had visited my place after the incident, but I am not aware if a case has been lodged,” said Victor.

Calls to Imphal West police officials including superintendent of police S Ibomcha Singh for details of the case and progress in investigation into both the incidents went unanswered.

“Me and my colleague had accepted the case of Hausing on being instructed by a Supreme Court lawyer, who is my mentor. But since myself and my colleague are Meitei and to avoid any hurt to Meitei community, we withdrew ourselves from the matter on August 31,” said Chittaranjan.

“But regrettably, around 300-400 unknown persons destroyed my office annexed to my residential building completely. Under the present circumstances, legal professionals feel hesitation in handling cases involving threat to personal liberty and security,” he added.

Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), an umbrella group of Kuki organisations in Churachandpur district, stated in a condemnation note issued on Saturday, “The threats to the lawyers by members of their own community show the level of intolerance and radicalization among the Meiteis. Mr Hausing has the right to defend himself in court and the lawyers were only doing their job by filing paperwork in the case.”

Hausing, who is the head of the political science department in University of Hyderabad, filed a criminal petition in Manipur high court on August 29, seeking the quashing of a court case registered against him in Imphal East and withdrawal of the summons issued to him.

The case against Hausing was lodged by an Imphal East resident, Moirangthem Manihar Singh, in July following a June 17 interview by the professor journalist Karan Thapar about the current situation in Manipur.

In his complaint, Singh alleged the Hausing made derogatory statements about a holy religious site associated with the Meitei community and defamed the community, increasing “communal enmity” at a time when Manipur is witnessing ethnic clashes.

Manipur has been roiled by ethnic clashes between Meitei and tribal Kuki communities since May 3, which has claimed over 163 lives and displaced around 50,000. Eight people lost their lives and nearly 20 were injured in a fresh spate of violence that started on August 29 and continued for three days.

In an order issued on July 6, the court of chief judicial magistrate of Imphal East took cognizance of the complaint and stated there was prima facie materials for offences against Hausing under sections of IPC, including promoting enmity between different groups (153A), using as true a declaration knowing it to be false (200), deliberate act to outrage religious feelings (295A) and criminal conspiracy (120B). It asked him to appear in court on July 28.

Hausing is facing another case in Imphal West, where a complainant has accused him of not being an Indian citizen and alleged he had forged his documents to procure identity papers. The court has asked police to prove the accusation.

Hausing had approached the Supreme Court seeking relief in both cases. On August 14, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud prohibited any coercive action against the professor for two weeks, allowing him “breathing space” to approach a competent court for relief. Hausing filed his petition in Manipur high court after that.

“The charge questioning my nationality is a flimsy one filed out of ignorance and spite. I am an Indian citizen by birth and all my documents say so,” Hausing said. “In connection with the other case, we are planning to approach the Supreme Court and get the matter transferred out of Manipur.”

The next date of hearing in Hausing’s criminal petition pending in Manipur high court has been fixed as September 4.

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