The “encounter killing” of a youth, Chungkham Sanjit, by the Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) on July 23, in Imphal city, in broad daylight, about 500 m from the State Assembly, has led to mass protests all over the state of Manipur as well as in Delhi and other places. A 23 year pregnant woman was also killed and 5 others injured in the incident.
The MPC had tried to justify this as yet another “encounter killing” of a militant. According to their official version, the MPC, during frisking operations at a market place in Imphal, tried to stop the youth, who fled, firing at the police. He was cornered inside a medicine shop where he allegedly fired at the police, who killed him in retaliation. A pistol was alleged to have been recovered from the youth. However, photographs taken of the entire incident by an on-the-spot observer and revealed by a leading New Delhi weekly, Tehelka, clearly showed the youth to be unarmed, to be peacefully submitting to frisking by the police, to being escorted by the police into the medicine shop and then his dead body being brought out by the police. Subsequently, many holes have been found in the police version of the incident. It has also been reported that contrary to the police claims, the youth was no “dreaded militant”, but an ordinary citizen (leading a normal civilian life, having severed his ties with the PLA several years ago).
Following these revelations, mass agitations broke out all across Manipur and its capital, Imphal, demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident and an end to the state terror in Manipur. Chief Minister of Manipur, after having earlier declared in the Assembly that there was “no other alternative but to kill insurgents”, was forced to order a judicial inquiry and suspension of 6 policemen accused of the killing.
For several decades now, Manipur has been under the jackboots of the Central and state security forces. A reign of terror has been let loose against the masses of people, all in the name of “curbing insurgency”. Under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the armed forces have carried out the most violent forms of torture and massacres of people while enjoying complete immunity from any civilian legal action.
State terror is a way of life in Manipur and people there have been raising their voices against continuously. The killing of 10 civilians, including an 18-year-old National Child Bravery Award winner, by the Assam Rifles, in 2004 led Irom Sharmila to go on hunger strike in protest against the AFSPA – which continues to this day. In July 2004, mothers in Manipur demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, daring the army to rape them, in protest against the rape, torture and murder of Thangjam Manorama, 32, who was picked up from her home at night by the Assam Rifles. This protest action shook the entire country. Protest actions against AFSPA all over Manipur and other northeastern states, as well as in Delhi, Mumbai and other places across the country forced the government to remove the AFSPA from only certain select areas of Imphal city. However, the state terrorism has continued unabated and the AFSPA remains in force in other areas of Imphal as well as in other parts of the state.
The Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) is widely perceived as an agency through which state terrorism in being executed in Imphal and other parts of Manipur in a big way. The Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) was first set up in 1979 as a Quick Striking Force (QSF), for “special operations”, with special instructions – such as, to fire only when fired upon, to give special attention to the needs of women, children and the elderly, to be responsible for the security of people arrested on suspicion, etc. The MPC is housed in isolated commando barracks and has very little contact with the general population, although its personnel are all locals. It operates only in four districts of Manipur – Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur. The MPC is officially not covered under the AFSPA, but is notorious for extra-judicial killings and fake encounter killings.
For example, in 2008, 27 recorded cases of torture and killing were attributed to the MPC. Their methods of torture include encounters carried out in broad daylight in public places (as on July 23), robbery and extortion of innocent citizens, etc. In most cases, no official action has been taken against the MPC for these killings so far, the suspension of 6 commandos for the July 23 killing being almost the first such action.
Lok Raj Sangathan condemns the killings on July 23 as well as the continuing state terrorism in Manipur. We call on people all over the country to come together and demand that the AFSPA should be immediately and unconditionally revoked, that the army and security forces should be withdrawn and state terrorism against the people of Manipur ended.