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Tales of excesses by armed forces in northeast

Vicky Nanjappa | September 15, 2008 12:17 IST

The Indian government should fully prosecute army, paramilitary, and police personnel responsible for killings and torture in the north eastern state of Manipur, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released on Monday.

Of Sharmila's re-arrest and an enduring struggle

The 79-page report, These Fellows Must Be Eliminated: Relentless Violence and Impunity in Manipur, documents the failure of justice in the state, where for 50 years the army, empowered and protected by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, has committed numerous serious human rights violations.

The report details the failure of justice in the killing and possible rape of alleged militant Thangjam Manorama Devi by the paramilitary Assam Rifles in 2004.

Manipur: The Irom Sharmila saga 

The report documents specific cases of extrajudicial executions and torture by soldiers, paramilitaries, and police in Manipur since 2006, and the Indian government's failure to curb the abuses.

Extrajudicial killings often followed a consistent pattern in which the military or police took a person into custody, often in front of eyewitnesses, who was later declared to have been killed in an armed encounter with militants.

The looming implosion in Manipur

Such faked 'encounter killings' often occurred when security forces suspected someone to be a militant, but did not have enough evidence to ensure a conviction.

On occasion, government officials or members of the armed forces would later admit to relatives that a person had been killed by 'mistake'. This claim is never made officially, so in police records the victim remains identified as a militant, and avenues for redress remain closed.

Excerpts from selected cases:

In 2004, elderly Manipuri women staged an unprecedented protest over Manorama's killing by stripping off their clothes and raising a banner calling for the army to come rape them, too. One of the women, L Gyaneshori, told Human Rights Watch:

"Manorama's killing broke our hearts. We mothers were weeping, Now our daughters can be raped. They can be subjected to such cruelty. Every girl is at risk. We shed our clothes and stood before the army. We said, 'We mothers have come. Drink our blood. Eat our flesh. Maybe this way you can spare our daughters.' But nothing has been done to punish those soldiers. The women of Manipur were disrobed by AFSPA. We are still naked."

Delhi fiddles while the northeast burns

Mohammad Abdul Hakim described the killing of his 15-year-old son, Razak Khan, on September 13, 2007, by a joint team of police and members of the 32nd Assam Rifles. Security forces had first come to their house asking for a man called Khajing, an alleged militant. Khan was asked to accompany the soldiers to a neighboring house. There, according to Hakim, his son was killed:

"We were beaten and told to collect in the courtyard. Soldiers went inside to search the house. Suddenly, I heard my son's voice shouting, 'I am not Khajing!' One of the neighbours later told me that he saw the soldiers push my son to the ground. He was crying. They shot him as he lay on the ground. We only heard the gunshots and then my son stopped shouting."

Elangbam Sanayaima was detained by members of the 21st Assam Rifles on November 29, 2007, and accused being a member of the separatist United National Liberation Front. He was taken to an Assam Rifles camp:

"At the camp, I was blindfolded and my hands were tied behind my back. Then they started interrogating me. They insisted over and over again that I was Sanayaima of UNLF. They asked me about my training and my colleagues. When I said that I was innocent, they beat me. Then they pushed my head back until I was almost upside down. They poured water into my nose and mouth until I could not breathe."

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