On July 23,2009 at 10:30am , a team of Manipur Police Commando personnel were conducting frisking operations in Imphal’s Khwairamband Keithel market. They saw a suspicious youth coming from the direction of the Uripok locality. When asked to stop, the youth suddenly pulled out a gun and ran away, firing at the public in a bid to evade the police.The youth was finally cornered inside Maimu Pharmacy near Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade. He was asked to surrender. Instead, he fired at the police. The police retaliated and the youth was killed. The account states that a 9mm Mauser pistol was “recovered”. The youth was identified from his driver’s license as Chongkham Sanjit, son of Chongkham Khelson of Kongpal Sajor Leikai, Manipur.
This is the official version of the event that took place resulting in death of Sanjith. But unfortunately for the Police a local photographer was clicking away pictures which told a different story. See here at the Tehelka website.[sorry that the Tehelka website link is currently showing security risk]
The photographs clearly reveal that, contrary to the official version, Sanjit was, in fact, standing calmly as the police commandos frisked him and spoke to him. He was escorted inside the storeroom of the pharmacy. He was shot point blank inside and his dead body was brought out.
Even if Sanjit was a former militant, he should not have have been killed in a false encounter. The photos show him talking to his killers, calmly, without offering any resistance. He was frisked moments before the shootout. He was not an insurgent on the run.
There is a grotesque and brutal history to the bullets that killed this young man. For years, decades even, security forces in Manipur have faced allegations of human rights violations and extrajudicial murders committed under cover of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In 2000, Irom Sharmila, stirred by the gunning down of 10 civilians, including an 18-year-old National Child Bravery Award winner, by the Assam Rifles, started a hunger fast — that lasts to this day — in protest against the AFSPA. In July 2004, the nation was rocked by the protests of a group of Manipuri women who marched to an Assam Rifles base in Imphal, stripped naked and raised a searing banner: “Indian Army Rape Us”. They were protesting the rape, torture and murder, a fortnight earlier, of Thangjam Manorama, 32, who was picked up from her home at night by the Assam Rifles.
Extra-judicial killings, and, in particular, fake encounters by the MPC have become common in Manipur. In 2008, there were 27 recorded cases of torture and killing attributed to the MPC. Where once they conducted ‘encounters’ in isolated places, they now do not think twice before operating in cities, in broad daylight, as they did on July 23. In several incidents, innocent civilians carrying money and valuables have been robbed and sometimes killed. In some cases official action has been taken against commandos for misconduct. For instance, in July 2009, five police commandos who had reportedly robbed three youths were suspended. But for the most part, their extra-judicial activity goes scot free.
Manipur is on the boil demanding resignation of the Congress Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh.Leaders of Manipur People’s Party (MPP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Manipur State Congress Party and CPI(M) separately called on Governor and urged him to intervene and stop killings of civilians.
Major social organisation Apunba Lup (AL), shut down Manipur by conducting a 48-hour general strike.. The organisation also took out torch rallies protesting the killing.In a statement, AL demanded immediate resignation of Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and termination of services of the commandos involved in the July 23 incident.
Facing such intensified protests against the killing, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh ordered a judicial probe into the incident and suspended six policemen in connection with it.Addressing a press conference, Singh said further action would depend on the report of the judicial inquiry.
When the law enforcing agencies have scant regard for law, the people will loose faith in the system and militants will thrive.
Text adapted from Tehelka.com.Pic from The Hindu