A Press Release from Human Rights Alert (HRA), Imphal, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), says:
Independent Citizens Fact Finding Mission to Manipur, Imphal
A team of concerned citizens comprising of Dr. K. S. Subramanian IPS, formerly of the Manipur-Tripura cadre and currently visiting professor, Jamia Millia University, New Delhi; Mr. Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream; Ms. Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary People’s Union for Civil Loberties; and Ms. Vasundhara Jairath of Delhi Solidarity Group is on a fact finding mission in Manipur from November 5. The mission was undertaken in the wake of heightened tensions in the state since July 2009.
Mr. Prabhash Joshi, veteran Hindi journalist and a consistent voice against violation of human rights, who was to join the team on November 6 and had expressed grave concern over the situation in Manipur, asking his doctor to allow him to make this visit, passed away due to a cardiac arrest on the 5th night. We are shocked and saddened by this sudden loss. His undoubting commitment to justice, peace, and free speech shall continue to inspire everyone, particularly in the field of journalism.
Our Terms of References are:
- Visit and interact with families of those killed in alleged fake encounters;
- Take account of the number of people killed, arrested, tortured, detained, etc by forces;
- Interact with those in jail or those released after detention/arrest;
- Meet the Chief Minister, and other officials concerned with the law and order situation;
- Prepare a narrative and photo documentation of the visit;
- Compile a comprehensive report of the facts collected with analysis and recommendations and present it to all the stakeholders and national/regional media.
In the last three days in Manipur we have met a cross-section of people here, including the Chief Minister, Director General of Police, Inspector General - Human Rights and Prisons, members of the civil society, citizens' groups, academics, media persons and families of the victims of state violence.
At the meeting with the Chief Minister, in which the DGP was present, the general situation in the state was reviewed. The DGP confirmed that in the past 11 months over 260 people have been killed in the state. The DGP also asserted that all of them are underground activists.
When the committee expressed concern that more than a quarter of the prisoners in Manipur were detained under the National Security Act, and brought up the case of detained human rights defender, Mr. Jiten Yumnam, the DGP defended Jiten's detention and said he too was connected with the underground.
The Chief Minister said he was prepared for a second round of talks with those agitating over the 23rd July killings, after the first round on October 31. The Chief Minister said that several of their demands could not be met. Regarding the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, he said the matter rests with the Central government. The team members appealed to the government that in order to prevent further alienation of the citizens from the state, each killing must be properly investigated, the National Security Act cases reviewed and the family members of the deceased appropriately rehabilitated through a just rehabilitation policy. The team also raised the issue of Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu's health, accommodation and access to the hospital.
On 6th November, the team was happy to meet Sharmila, now in the 10th year of her heroic hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. The team calls upon the government to provide similar access to other civil society organizations to meet Sharmila. Her family members should be permitted to meet her on a regular basis. Being allowed only a limited number of visitors, she expressed her desire to meet, see and speak to more people more often. Her strength and courage in undertaking the longest satyagraha in the world, completely peaceful and non-violent, leaves us in awe of her struggle. Her demand for the repeal of the Act must be considered in the light of several official recommendations.
Since Ms. Mahashweta Devi was denied permission to meet her the previous day, Sharmila handed over a letter to the team members for the respected Magsaysay Award winner. She further expressed her concern over the number of innocent persons that were killed everyday in Manipur due to the high degree of violence in the state.
Through our discussions in Imphal, we have come across repeated allegations against the state security forces. The team expresses its deep concern over the deteriorating situation and the prevailing climate of impunity in Manipur. It conveys its solidarity with the victims of violence and calls for adequate recompense to the hapless women and children who have lost their husbands/fathers/sons and the only earning members of the families and to ensure employment opportunities to them.
Many have described the killings as fake encounters – murder of innocents who perished either in custody or otherwise, but without legal sanction. Each of these allegations must be investigated in a transparent manner and the guilty punished. Further, there have been charges of using preventive detention laws to curb citizens' democratic rights to protest and freely express their views. The high degree and the frequency of violation of human rights in the state is also cause for alarm. Restoration of peace and order must go hand in hand with the promotion of the rule of law and justice for the sustenance of democracy.
This is an interim report. The final report will follow. We hope to release the findings of the team on 18th November, 2009 in New Delhi.
The team feels that the consequences of continuing violence would be disastrous and will adversely affect peace building and reconciliation in society.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Babloo Loitongbom
Human Rights Alert
Telephone: + 91 9862008838