A shot in the arm for Manipur’s intrepid women

After their long battle, Supreme Court orders filing of chargesheets in 1,528 cases of extra-judicial killings under the contentious AFSPA

September 8 was the grim anniversary of the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) in Manipur in 1980. Allegations of extra-judicial excesses and killings by security forces have persisted since then. The Supreme Court, which is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition, seeking a probe into as many as 1,528 cases of extra-judicial killings that allegedly took place in Manipur between 1979 to 2012 under the contentious Act, on July 14, 2017, constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and ordered the framing of chargesheets in a time-bound manner against Army and police officers involved in the encounters. Quest for truth
Renu Takhellambam, president, Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Manipur (EEVFAM), told The Hindu , “We joined hands to find out the truth about the deaths of our husbands, brothers and fathers. The Supreme Court’s direction to the CBI to file chargesheets in the deaths of most of the 1,528 persons has vindicated us.” Wives of men who died in alleged extra-judicial violence formed the EEVFAM on July 11, 2009. Ms. Takhellambam recounted, “On that fateful morning of April 7, 2007, my husband, Mung Hangzo, was proceeding towards Imphal in a scooter with two friends. On seeing a police team, a common sight in those days in insurgency-afflicted Manipur, which caused fear of harassment and delays, they swerved to take a detour through a village road.”
Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of the NGO Human Rights Alert (HRA), said, “We have reason to fear that at least 200 more cases of custodial killings exist.” The HRA published ‘Manipur in the Shadow of AFSPA’, a 275-page report documenting extra-judicial killings in the State, in 2010.
Eight skeletons were found in the heart of Imphal city by construction workers digging pits in December 2014. State and Central forces had camped at this spot in the recent past at the time. The Okram Ibobi-led State government had said the case would be handed over to the CBI or the National Investigation Agency (NIA), but this did not happen. Some of the victims may have been women, since ear-rings and ornaments were found with the skeletons. In a far-reaching 85-page July 2016 judgment that set a judicial precedent, a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit ripped open the cloak of immunity provided by the AFSPA, declaring that “there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court” if an Army man committed an offence.
On July 2, 2018, the Supreme Court urged the National Human Rights Commission to be “actively involved” in the ongoing probe. The alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, the Assam Rifles personnel and the police in Manipur “cannot be tolerated”, the Supreme Court said.
Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/a-shot-in-the-arm-for-manipurs-intrepid-women/article24906052.ece

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