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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 48, November 14, 2009

Interim Report of Independent Citizens Fact-finding Mission to Manipur

Tuesday 17 November 2009

The following is the Interim Report of an Independent Citizens Fact-finding Mission to Manipur. This was released in the form of a press release at a press conference at the Press Club, Imphal on November 7, 2009.

A team of concerned citizens comprising Dr K.S. Subramanian IPS (retd.), formerly of the Manipur-Tripura cadre and currently Visiting Professor, Jamia Millia University, New Delhi, Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream, Kavita Srivastava, PUCL National Secretary, and Vasundhara Jairath of the Delhi Solidarity Group is on a fact-finding mission to Manipur from November 5 onwards in the wake of the heightened tensions in the State since July 2009. Shri 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 this visit, possibly his last to the State, sadly passed away due to a cardiac arrest on the 5th night. We are left shocked and greatly saddened by this sudden loss. His undaunting commitment to justice peace and free speech shall continue to inspire young and old particularly in the field of journalism.

Our Terms of Reference are:

1. Visit and interact with families of those killed in alleged fake encounters.

2. Take account of the number of people killed, arrested, tortured, detained, etc. by forces.

3. Interact with those in jail or those released after detention/arrest.

4. Meet the CM and other officials concerned with the law and order situation.

5. Prepare a narrative and photo documentation of the visit.

6. 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, DGP, IG Human Rights and Prisons, members of the civil society, citizens’ groups, academics, mediapersons and families of the victims of State violence.

At the meeting with the CM, where the DGP was present, the general situation in the State was reviewed. The DGP confirmed that over 260 people have been killed since January 2009 and asserted that all of them were underground activists. When the committee expressed concern that more than a fourth of the prisoners in Manipur were detained under the NSA and brought up the case of human rights defender Jiten Yumnam, the DGP defended his detention and said he too was connected with the underground. The CM said he was prepared for a second round of talks with those agitating over the July 23 killings, after the first round on October 31, 2009 but several of their demands could never he met.

Regarding the AFSPA, he said the matter rests with the Centre. 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 NSA cases reviewed and the family members of the deceased appropriately rehabilitated through a just rehabilitation policy. We also raised the issue of Irom Sharmila’s health, accommodation and access in the hospital.

On the November 6 the team was happy to meet Irom Sharmila Chanu, now on the 10th year of her heroic fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. It calls upon the government to provide similar access to other civil society members. 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 AFSPA should be actively considered in the light of several official recommendations.

Since 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 innocents that were dying 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 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/sole bread-winners and ensure employment opportunities to them.

Many have alleged these killings as fake encounters—as killings of innocents who perished either in custody or otherwise, but without legal sanction. Each of these allegations should be transparently investigated 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 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 November 18, 2009 in New Delhi.

The team feels that the consequences of continuing violence would be disastrous and adversely affect peace-building and reconciliation in society.

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