A Manipuri woman whose husband was killed in an alleged extra-judicial encounter has accused the state police of vandalising her home and intimidating her. In her written complaint, Salima Memcha, a resident of Thoubal district, accused a team of the elite Manipur Police Commandos of coming to her home at around 5 am on Saturday and of “demolition and destruction of my properties”. She alleged that they threatened her of “dire consequences” before they left.
Memcha is part of the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association, which has been at the forefront of a long legal battle seeking justice for victims of these purported staged killings, which are largely blamed on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that is in force in the state. This law gives security personnel sweeping powers to arrest, search and even kill and some degree of immunity from prosecution.
Memcha’s husband, Mohammed Faziruddin, was killed by troops of the 33 Assam Rifles in January 2010. The security force claimed he was a militant killed in a gunfight. Memcha, however, claims her husband was a farmer and was killed in cold blood. The National Human Rights Commission had ordered the Manipur state administration to pay monetary compensation to Memcha for her husband’s killing.
Faziruddin’s case was among 62 cases the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association listed as instances of fake encounters when it first approached the Supreme Court in 2012. In its petition, the group has alleged that there were 1,528 extra-judicial killings in Manipur between 1979 and 2012 but that action had not been taken against the personnel involved in even one case. In a landmark judgement in July 2017, the Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into 98 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in the state.
Faziruddin’s case is not among these 98 cases. It is being investigated by the state Criminal Investigation Department. Memcha said she was to depose before the department on the day the police landed up at her house, and did not go out of fear. “Anything may happen to me on that journey,” she wrote in her complaint.
She said the police raid was a “direct reprisal of my effort for seeking justice”.
Standard operation, say police
Thoubal Superintendent of Police S Goutam, however, said the police had gone to her home as part of a “routine cordon and search operation” and were not aware that “she was victim of such kind of a thing”. He said the raid was not prompted by any specific intelligence input.
Asked about the timing of the raid, Goutam said it was standard procedure to conduct cordon and search operations at the crack of dawn.
Not the first time
But Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert – which assisted the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association in filing the petition in the Supreme Court and gathering evidence – said the raid at Memcha’s house was not an isolated incident. “There have been many such incidents recently and there is a clear pattern emerging that the police are targeting people associated with the case on very vague charges,” he alleged.
In February, Army personnel, accompanied by state police officials and a masked man, had allegedly entered the house of Human Rights Alert activist Ranjeeta Sadokpam at 1 am. Sadokpam said she and her family members were forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not shown to them.
Earlier the same month, Manoj Thockchom of the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association was allegedly detained by the police for 15 hours without an arrest warrant and questioned about links with armed insurgent groups.
In January, another member of the association, Sagolsem Menjor Singh, whose son was killed in an alleged fake encounter, claimed to have been harassed by the police on concocted charges.
Loitongbam said the government and senior police officers had conceded in each of these incidents that they were cases of mistaken identity. “The CM [chief minister] and senior police officers listen patiently but clearly the message from them has not been loud and clear as these incidents continue to happen,” he added.
Loitongbam also said no senior police official had met with Memcha though they had promised to do so.
Irengbam Arun, media adviser to Chief Minister N Biren Singh, said on Sunday that an enquiry into the incident has been ordered.