Manipuri human rights activist Binalakshmi Nepram, has alleged that she was “intimidated and harassed” on Friday by armed officers of the Manipur police force. Nepram said the police barged into her family home in Manipur’s capital Imphal on Friday afternoon. “The police entered my house at around 1.30 in the afternoon and asked for me in very intimidating manner,” Nepram told Scroll.in. The activist refused to divulge her current location, claiming she feared for her life.
It is suspected Nepram was targeted for helping re-open a case filed by the family of Irom Roger, the victim of a road rage incident involving current Chief Minister Biren Singh’s son in 2011.
The case involving the chief minister’s son
In January, N Ajay Singh was sent to five years’ judicial custody after he was convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder for allegedly shooting Roger dead in a fit of rage for overtaking his car.
On Friday, Roger’s mother, Irom Chitra, had filed a fresh petition in the case, contending that the Central Bureau of Investigation had botched up the case and N Ajay Singh should instead be convicted for outright murder.
The petition was filed by a Supreme Court lawyer, Utsav Singh Bains, on her behalf. Chitra said she had approached four or five Manipur-based lawyers, but no one was willing to take the case on. The Chandigarh-based Bains finally agreed to take up the case on the insistence of Neparam.
Bains said he visited Imphal from March 17 to 19 while working on the case. “On March 22, I received calls from a person claiming to be a PLA [banned insurgent group People’s Liberation Army] cadre asking me to drop the case.”
Bains claimed that he informed Manipur’s superintendent of police (crime investigation department) the same day through a Whatsapp message. The officer, however, told Scroll.in that he had received no such complaint.
Bains said that he decided to not go ahead with the case and instead engage a local lawyer. “But every lawyer my team and I contacted at the Manipur High Court refused to take on the case, claiming they feared for their lives,” he said. “Finally, as a last resort I decided to go ahead with the case myself.”
Bains said he also said he had written to the Union home secretary asking for security while in Manipur. He next visited Manipur on May 10, and filed the petition on behalf of Chitra in the Manipur High Court.
Bains said the police visiting Nepram’s house suggested that there was “an attempt to intimidate everyone” on their side. “We want the case shifted out of Manipur immediately and we will file a petition regarding that.”
Police deny claims of intimidation
However, Imphal (West) Superintendent of Police Herojit has contested Nepram’s version of the events that took place at her home, saying that there was no intimidation at all. Herojit told Scroll.in that a team had gone to Nepram’s residence to enquire about the threats Bains had allegedly received.
“There have been news reports about this Supreme Court lawyer receiving threat calls,” he said. “So we have lodged a suo moto complaint, and the team had gone to ask Nepram if she knew anything about the so-called threats. They couldn’t find her, so they came back. There is no question of any intimidation.”
On Twitter, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said that he had himself handed over his son to the CBI, and that the National Investigation Agency would look into the Bains’ allegations of intimidation.