Urgent Appeals from Manipur

Longjam Surjit: Shot dead looking for a horse
VICTIM: Longjam Surjit, 18
INCIDENT: Extrajudicial killing
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: 22 Maratha Light Infantry personnel
DATE: 31 August 2006
PLACE: Samurou, Imphal West

Longjam Surjit had reportedly gone to look for a missing horse on the night of 31 August 2006 with his friend Naorem Brajamani by the banks of the Nambul River. When Brajamani stopped to relieve himself Surjit kept walking. Then Brajamani heard ten shots from the direction in which his friend had walked. Scared, he ran home.

In the morning Surjit was found shot dead. Army personnel of the 22nd Maratha Light Infantry unit stationed at Mayang, Imphal claimed responsibility, saying that Surjit had tried to fire at the army officers. They claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from Surjit, which his family has denied.

On September 1 and 3 local residents met at the Samurou market to protest the killing. In a public meeting it was decided that Surjit¡¦s family would not claim his body from the mortuary unless there is an independent investigation of the case and the army officers responsible are punished. People at the meeting expressed strong resentment at the paramilitary forces and police responsible for killing innocent persons and then claiming that they were insurgents. They also blocked the main Mayai Lambi Road in protest.

Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei & Leitangthem Umakanta Meitei: Human rights defenders arrested & tortured
1. Yengkokpam Langamba, alias Thabi, publicity secretary, Threatened Indigenous People¡¦s Society (TIPS)
2. Leitangthem Umakanta, secretary general, TIPS
INCIDENTS: Illegal arrest & torture
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: Assam Rifles personnel; SDPO Jhalajit Singh & subordinates of Imphal West police
DATES: 23 & 24 August 2006
PLACE: Imphal West

At about 4am on 23 August 2006 officers from the Assam Rifles accompanied by police came to the house of Yengkokpam Langamba, alias Thabi, to conduct a search. The search team was led by Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Jhalajit Singh of Imphal West. The search revealed nothing. However, Thabi was arrested and taken into custody on the allegation of his having some illegal CDs in his house. An arrest memo was issued under section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

At about the same time next day SDPO Singh led a unit of police to surround the house of Leitangthem Umakanta, a lawyer who is also spokesperson for Apunba Lup, a collation of 34 human rights organisations working in Manipur. After the house was thoroughly searched Umakanta was also arrested. No arrest memo was given to his family. Soon after arrest, his wife and younger brother visited him at the Imphal City Police Station and an arrest memo was handed over to them there, but allegedly with the time of arrest recorded as 9:30am. It is also alleged that the arrest memo names Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Mohamad Anwar Hussain as a witness to the arrest, although he was not.

A complaint was registered against Umakanta (First Information Report [FIR] No. 140 [8] 2006, Porompat Imphal Police Station), under sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Amended) 2004. These sections define offences relating to membership of terrorist organisations and supporting the activities of such organisations. The offences are non-bailable, and carry severe punishment, like rigorous imprisonment for long periods.

Both men were remanded in custody and have alleged that they were tortured.

An Open Letter to the Chairperson of the Bar Council of India by the Asian Human Rights Commission

September 6, 2006

The Chairperson
Bar Council of India
21, Rouse Avenue, Institutional Area
New Delhi ¡V 110002

Fax: + 91 11 23232767
Email: bcindia1@vsnl.com

Dear Chairperson,

INDIA: Bar Council of India is urged to take immediate actions in the case of illegal arrest, torture, continuing detention and fabrication of charges against a human rights lawyer and activist in Manipur

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to express our deep concern over the continuing detention of Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei alias Thabi, the Publicity Secretary of the Threatened Indigenous People’s Society (TIPS), Manipur and Mr. Leitangthem Umakanta Meitei, the Secretary General of the TIPS. Mr. Umakanta is a member of the All Manipur Bar Association and also a human rights activist. He is the spokesperson for Apunba Lup, a collation of 34 human rights organisations working in Manipur.

Prior to the arrest the house of Umakanta and Langamba was surrounded by the officers from the Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur and the arrest was made by police officers from Imphal West police station. Umakanta was arrested around 4am on 24 August 2006 from his home at Porompat Thawanthaba Leikai, Imphal East District, Manipur while Langamba was arrested the previous day. Both these arrests were carried out in breach of all procedures and mandates of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and the directives issued by the Supreme Court of India regarding arrest, detention and questioning of persons by law enforcement agencies.

It is alleged that the Assam Rifles wanted to place some incriminating evidence to justify the arrest. For this, it is alleged that the Assam Rifles pressured the state police, to place on record some compact disks as recovered from their custody, connecting the two with secessionist forces operating in Manipur. Both Umakanta and Langamba have denied that no such articles were recovered from their house. This is further reiterated by the fact that a proper arrest or seizure memo was not prepared at the time of arrest. It is alleged that both Umakanta and Langamba were tortured while in custody. The AHRC has issued an urgent appeal on 25 August 2006 through its urgent appeals programme regarding this case as UA-278-2006.

Later the police registered a First Information Report number 140 (8) 2006 of Porompat Imphal Police Station for charges under Sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [as amended in 2004] claiming that Umakanta and Langamba had connections with Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL), a secessionist group operating in Manipur.  The two were produced before the court on 24 August and were remanded to judicial custody till 29 August 2006.

Umakanta and Langamba when produced before the Magistrate had complained to the Magistrate that they were brutally tortured while in custody. They explained to the Magistrate how they were tortured and the injuries they sustained from torture. The Magistrate has recoded these submissions made in the court. However, the Magistrate refrained from taking any action in this regard but for asking the Investigating Officer to prepare a report on the allegation. Umakanta was later produced before an ENT specialist instead of a General Practitioner to be examined for the injuries he sustained while in custody.

Umakanta and Langamba were again produced before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal on 29 August 2006. The Magistrate ordered the release of Umakanta observing that the police could not substantiate the charges levelled against him. However, the Magistrate also ordered Umakanta to furnish security for his release against which Umakanta made his protest through his lawyer. This was on the ground that if the arrest itself is illegal and if there is no substantial case made out against him why should he be asked to furnish a security. He insisted on an unconditional release and the withdrawal of the charges levelled against him and his colleague.

Massive protests by hundreds of persons, especially women, were held in Manipur against the arrest and detention of Umakanta and Langamba. The protest that began from the day of arrest is continuing. The members from the All Manipur Bar Association condemned the atrocities committed against Umakanta and Langamba and also visited them in custody. However, they failed to take the matter any further.

It appears that this is the general attitude of anyone who is in a position to raise their voice against the atrocities committed by the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in India, particularly in Manipur. It is because anyone who consistently protests against atrocities committed by the law enforcement agencies will be silenced using force in India. They also risk the possibility of being involved in non-bailable offences and arrested and tortured, against which there is no law in India.

As you might be aware, there is no law in India which criminalise custodial torture. In addition, in places like Manipur draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 is used to silence anyone who raises voice against the atrocities committed by the armed forces in Manipur. The enormous powers conferred to the rank and file of the armed forces by virtue of the above Act and owing to the absence of any specific law to prosecute the perpetrators, nobody dares to challenge the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies stationed in Manipur beyond a limit.

This case, while being yet another example showing the deterioration of rule of law in India also substantiate the requirement that India must ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The directives of the Supreme Court regarding the procedures to be followed during arrest, detention and questioning of a suspect seem to be continuously violated in India. The only effective implementation of the order of the Supreme Court appears to be posting the court¡¦s guidelines as a public notice in the police stations across the country.

The AHRC has been raising our concern to the relevant authorities in India for the past few years that India must ratify the convention and come-up with appropriate domestic law to prevent custodial violence. However, it appears that the government of India has not initiated any action in that regard, but rather defended all such demands on the ground that the current domestic law and the judiciary in India is good enough to prevent custodial torture in India.

Regarding Manipur in particular, the government of India must also initiate an open ended discussion with the people in Manipur to bring an end to the ongoing violence in Manipur. The possible first step towards this end would be to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

As it has turned out in the court, the charges levelled against Umakanta are fabricated.  The Magistrate was not convinced why he was arrested and charged with offences that could not be substantiated in the court. The case of Langamba will also soon reveal itself as a fabricated case. The AHRC is aware that the actual reason for the arrest is to enforce silence upon those who work on human rights issues in Manipur. It appears that the local police also have been forced into conceding to the pressure from the paramilitary. As of today Langamba and Umakanta are held at the Sajiwa Central Jail in Manipur.

Umakanta is a lawyer who has his freedom and obligation to represent clients and their cause in a court of law in India. This is his fundamental right. The challenge to this right, in Umakanta¡¦s case in particular, assumes more gravity given the fact that he was actively involved in challenging human rights violations committed by the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in Manipur. Umakanta is the spokes person for a consortium of human rights organisations working to protect and promote human rights in Manipur. It is apparent that the intention behind the arrest of these two persons was an attempt to silence the entire human rights movement in Manipur.

In this context the AHRC would like to raise the following issues to the Bar Council of India expecting that the Council will take immediate measures to address these concerns.

1) As a lawyer and a human rights defender, Mr. Umakanta Leitanthem was targeted by the Armed Forces, arrested by the police and fabricated in a false case. There is evidence already placed in court that he was tortured while in custody and that the reason for arrest and torture were fabricated by the Assam Rifles. As a governing body responsible to safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates in India under Section 7 (1) b of the Advocates¡¦ Act, 1961 what action will the Bar Council of India take in this case?

2) An advocate practicing in India has been illegally arrested along with his colleague where the arresting officers have violated all legal mandates including the directives of the Supreme Court of India regarding arrest, detention and questioning. The Supreme Courts directives are now considered to be incorporated into the Criminal Procedure Code of India. The AHRC is sure that this is not an isolated case. Is the Bar Council of India planing to take any action within a reasonable time to prevent such breach of law repeatedly happening in India?

3) This case and thousands of other cases are examples of violation of fundamental rights in India. All these apparently stem out from the absence of a specific law in India against custodial torture. By virtue of the powers conferred upon the Council by Section 7 (1) b of the Advocate¡¦s Act, 1961 will the Council take any steps to pressure the government of India to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment?

4) Will the Bar Council of India take any steps to bring these issues before the government of India and the Supreme Court of India for appropriate consideration and further action?

5) Will the Council conduct an impartial inquiry into the incident and publish its findings within a reasonable time?

6) If the council conduct such an inquiry and if the enquiry reveals that the charges against Umakanta and Langamba are false and fabricated will the Council: (1) Take up Umakanta¡¦s and his colleague¡¦s case to see to it that the fabricated case is quashed and the officers responsible for torturing Umakanta and Langaba are punished; and, (2) Further pressure the government of India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958?

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

1) Justice Mr. Y. K. Sabharwal, Chief Justice of India
2) Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
3) Mr. Justice A. S. Anand, Chairperson – National Human Rights Commission of India
4) Mr. Leandro Despouy, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
5) Prof. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture

Six student leaders assaulted & abused
VICTIMS: Six student leaders of the All Manipur Students¡¦ Union and Democratic Students¡¦ Alliance of Manipur
INCIDENTS: Illegal detention, assault & intimidation
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: Army personnel at Numgba under Major Abhishek
DATE: 15 July 2006
PLACE: Jiribam, Imphal East

In mid-2006, in response to a series of student actions in Jiribam subdivision of Imphal East calling for educational and administrative reforms, the chief minister of Manipur sent a message through the additional deputy commissioner of Jiribam that he would like to meet the student leaders.

On July 15, six representatives led by the president of the All Manipur Students¡¦ Union in Jiribam were on their way by car to the meeting when at about 10:30am they were stopped on National Highway No. 53 at the Numgba army checkpoint. Major Abhishek asked about their identities and purpose of their journey, to which the students answered truthfully and produced their letter of invitation from the chief minister and forwarding letter through the additional deputy commissioner. The documents were photocopied and the group was returning to their car when the major called them back for further interrogation. During the next two hours the group were photographed and verbally and physically abused, including being punched in the chest and threatened. After that they were released.

The group did not go to meet the chief minister and student groups alongside other local organisations began protest actions to demand that the army officers be held accountable.

A statement issued by the Press Information Bureau of the Defence Wing on July 17 denied any wrongdoing. Although the chief minister made a public statement in the same day saying that action would be taken against the officers if the allegations were found to be true, no investigation was conducted.

Beaten up for mourning brother¡¦s death
1. Khundrakpam Lukhoi, alias Binodkumar, brother of Khundrakpam Romen
2. Khundrakpam Debata, brother
3. Khundrakpam Bimol, brother
4. Khundrakpam Sunibala, sister
5. Khundrakpam Abeyai, alias Debla, sister
6. Khundrakpam Ruhini, mother
7. Maibam Naobi, friend
INCIDENTS: Assault, intimidation & illegal arrest
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: Manipur Police Commando personnel
DATE: 21 February 2006
PLACE: Thoubal

On 20 February 2006 a shoot-out between police and members of an insurgent group in the Thoubal Market resulted in four police commandos and one of their opponents being killed. Among the police was a highly-decorated inspector, Nongthombam Lokhon Singh. Khundrakpam Romen, alias Bikash, was the sole member of the People¡¦s Liberation Army killed in the incident.

The four slain commandos were given full state honours in a ceremony held at the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles parade ground on February 21 attended by the chief minister and all senior government and security officials.

On the same day the dead body of Bikash was also brought back home after an autopsy. Many of his friends and relatives gathered to cremate his body according to local ritual. But at around 4:30pm police commandos came in four jeeps, barged into the house where the relatives and friends were mourning and started beating the deceased man¡¦s relatives, during which time his five brothers and sisters sustained serious injuries.

The commandos reportedly ordered the family not to complete the ceremony, saying that if the family defied their orders then a second family member would be killed. They also demanded a large sum of money

Maibam Naobi, a teacher and friend of Bikash, was resting inside his house when the commandos broke in. She was questioned, grabbed by her hair and dragged outside. Khundrakpam Ruhini, the dead man¡¦s mother, pleaded that Maibam was innocent, but she was also beaten up. Naobi was then taken away in a police jeep without an arrest memo being issued.

On February 22, local people, including Naobi¡¦s students and colleagues, went to Thoubal Police Station and swore that Naobi is an innocent teacher and a law-abiding citizen. A petition was filed with the Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) by Khundrakpam Debala Devi, pleading it to prevent further inhumane torture and harassment of the family and friends of Naobi. The MHRC asked the government to submit a report to it and two of its members visited Bikash¡¦s family and instructed the officer-in-charge of Thoubal Police Station to provide security to the family until the last rites had been performed. The officer denied that Naobi had been charged with any offence. However, on February 23 she was produced before the chief judicial magistrate in Thoubal and was remanded to police custody for a further nine days. According to her lawyer she was visibly weak and dizzy, indicating severe physical and mental torture. She was wearing a new shirt as the original shirt one had allegedly been torn by the police.

According to the police report, Naobi was arrested at 8pm on February 22 in the courtyard of Bikash¡¦s house: some 28 hours after she was actually arrested. She was charged with being ¡§an associate of the party who ambushed the OC and commandos¡¨ and being the ¡§girl friend of Bikash¡¨. A complaint was lodged against her (FIR No. 25[2]06, Thoubal Police Station) under section 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Amended) 2004.

On February 24 the commandos again came to Bikash¡¦s house when the family was observing religious ceremonies mourning Bikash¡¦s death and further arrested two young men. When the women present gathered around the police inquiring why they were arrested the police fired teargas shells to disperse the crowd and threatened that anyone trying to interfere with them would also be taken into custody and face a similar fate as Bikash.

L Premanda, Pechimayum Yaima Singh & Leimapokpam Bilashini: One killing, two arrests & a pile of cash
1. L Premananda, 25 (deceased)
2. Pechimayum Yaima Singh
3. Leimapokpam Bilashini
INCIDENTS: Extrajudicial killing, robbery, illegal arrest & detention
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: Manipur Police Commando personnel, including Inspector Mubi Singh
DATE: 30 January & 10 February 2006
PLACE: Imphal East

Premananda was picked up along Nongpok Sanjenbam Road by the Manipur Police Commando, Imphal East on 30 January 2006 and was shot at Manging, Sabal Leikai Kshetrigao in the same district. Premananda had 85,000 rupees (USD 1900) with him, and robbery of the money is believed to have been the motive for the arrest and killing.

On January 31 local people formed a protest group and submitted a memorandum to the chief minister of Manipur stating that Premananda was killed deliberately by the police after arrest. They demanded that the perpetrators be sacked and Premananda¡¦s family have the money and his other belongings returned to them within 48 hours. This never happened. Moreover, his mother, L Subadani Devi, lodged a complaint with the Imphal East Police Station but the police reportedly refused to act on it. The family refused to take back his family until the government gave a clear commitment to punish the perpetrators; on February 5 the government declared the body unclaimed and cremated it under tight security. In subsequent protests, government offices in Imphal East were burnt down.

In an early morning raid on 10 February 2006 Imphal East Police Commando personnel led by Inspector Mubi Singh came to Kongpal and arrested and falsely charged two of the protest organisers, Pechimayum Yaima Singh and Leimapokpam Bilashini, at their house. They were detained and a case registered against them (FIR No. 31[2]06, Porompat Police Station) under sections 436, 427 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984. The same day they were remanded to judicial custody and lodged in the Sajiwa Jail.

Ningthoujam Chaoba: Dragged from hotel with baby in arms
VICTIMS: Ningthoujam Chaoba, 27, son of N Yaima; human rights defenders protesting his arrest
INCIDENTS: Illegal arrest, torture & assault
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: 24 Assam Rifles personnel commanded by Major Atul Yadav
DATE: 16 January 2006
PLACE: Hotel Broadway, Moreh

On 16 January 2006, Assam Rifles personnel summoned all hotel owners in Moreh and told them that clients could stay only on production of identity cards and that hotel records should be submitted to the army regularly, failing which the hotels would be closed down.

At about 3:50pm the same day personnel from 24 Assam Rifles led by Major Atul Yadav went to Hotel Broadway in Moreh to arrest Ningthoujam Chaoba, who had been staying there with his wife and three-month-old baby since January 10. When Chaoba protested he was dragged out of the hotel while holding his baby and in the scuffle the baby was hurt.

Some 20 women human rights defenders from the Meira Paibi group in Moreh came to intervene. They pleaded for the safety of the baby and insisted on the issuing of an arrest memo, but the personnel reportedly refused and hit the women with rifle butts and also kicked them. Six were seriously injured and hospitalised. Samulailatpam Sushila Devi lodged a complaint against the brutality (FIR No. 8[1]06, Moreh Police Station) under sections 354 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 27 of the Arms Act.

Chaoba was subsequently handed over to the Moreh police. While in police custody he told his wife that he was tortured, treated inhumanely and sexually harassed while in the custody of the Assam Rifles. On January 18 local newspapers reported that he had been made to strip naked and dance before being sodomised by three Assam Rifles personnel in their camp.

A day before the arrest of Chaoba, Major Yadav and his men had also gone to the Hotel Geetanjali and allegedly ordered 18-year-old Lairenlakpam Uttam, son of L Bijoy, to supply them with women or be killed.

On January 20 a protest gathering demanded that the 24 Assam Rifles be transferred from Moreh immediately. At around 4pm that day Brigadier R A Lewis of the Assam Rifles met leaders of the public in Moreh to discuss the matter, but nothing came of the meeting.

Jangkhotinmang Haokip: Shot dead for running inside
VICTIM: Jangkhotinmang Haokip, alias Mangcha, 27, son of Thangkholun
INCIDENT: Extrajudicial killing
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: 24 Assam Rifles personnel commanded by Colonel K S Kadian
DATE: 11 January 2006
PLACE: Ward 7, Moreh

Personnel of the 24 Assam Rifles in civilian clothes led by Commanding Officer Colonel K S Kadian allegedly drove a red van without registration plates into Chavangphai village of Moreh Ward 7 on 11 January 2006. Some villagers sitting around a small fire by a roadside restaurant stopped the van to identify the persons inside. On realising that they were members of the 24 Assam Rifles they ran for their lives. Another group of villagers sitting beside a fire in the courtyard of the house of Holngam Mate, next to the restaurant, rushed inside. According to eyewitnesses, two personnel chased them inside, including Jangkhotinmang Haokip, the village carpenter, whom they cornered in the kitchen and shot at pointblank range, after which they assaulted him. He died on the way to hospital.

The next day Tongkholun Haokip, chairman of Hill Tribal Council Unit XII, Chavangphai lodged a complaint with the police (FIR No. 6[1]06, Moreh Police Station), under sections 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 27 of the Arms Act. The Assam Rifles filed a counter complaint (FIR No. 7[1]06, Moreh Police Station) under sections 307 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 25(1-C) of the Arms Act, claiming that the victim was killed when an armed insurgent group attacked them while on duty.

Sarangthem Jayenta: Handed to police after public protests
VICTIMS: Sarangthem Jayenta, alias Arun, son of Sarangthem Chaobhan of Hiyangthang Maning Awang Leikai; human rights defenders protesting his disappearance
INCIDENTS: Illegal arrest, torture & assault
ALLEGED PERPETRATORS: 24 Assam Rifles personnel
DATE: 1 January 2006
PLACE: Moreh

On 1 January 2006, personnel from the 24 Assam Rifles posted at Moreh arrested Sarangthem Jayenta, alias Arun, in the police compound at about 8:30pm. The arrest was witnessed by several locals, but the Assam Rifles at first denied it.

A complaint was lodged with the police by Sanasam Maglem, brother-in-law of the victim, on January 2 (FIR No. 1[1]06, Moreh Police Station) under sections 365 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, but the police expressed helplessness since the accused were paramilitary personnel.

The residents of the town then staged a public protest and the Assam Rifles attacked the procession, injuring ten women human rights defenders from the Meira Paibi group.

As public pressure mounted the Assam Rifles handed Jayenta to the Imphal West Police Station on January 4, stating that he was arrested the day before. He had been severely tortured and was accused of having weapons in his possession and being a member of the banned People¡¦s Liberation Army (FIR No. 2[1]06, Moreh Police Station) under sections 17 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2004, section 25(1-C) of the Arms Act and section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act.

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