URGENT APPEAL: INVESTIGATE MASS GRAVE OF SUSPECTED VICTIMS OF ENFORCED ‘DISAPPEARANCE’ LOCATED IN MANIPUR SCHOOL OCCUPIED BY INDIAN SECURITY FORCES
Dated: 9 January 2015
- Kangujam Ranjit
Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association Manipur (FIDAM)
Address: Khongman Okram Chuthek
Imphal East District
- Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy
Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR)
Address: c/o Centre for Organisation Research & Education
Ibotombi Building (FF)
Asian Highway No.1
Contact: +91-385-2458169, 2447371
At least eight human skulls and skeletal remains were found on 25 December 2014(Christmas Day) along with other human artifacts fromthe compound of the former Tombisana High School in the heart of Imphal Town in Manipur in India’s North East, opposite the former Manipur LegislativeAssembly complex, bylabourers engaged in excavation work for a new market complex to come up in the location of the former school, which is only about 150 – 200 meters west of the centrally located Kangla Fort. The school was formerly occupied for almost three decades by the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Forces and Manipur Police Commandoes, all extensively engaged in counter-insurgency operations against insurgent organizations fighting for Manipur’s political self-determination,such as the Manipur Peoples Liberation Front, Revolutionary Peoples Front, United National Liberation Front, etc.
The widely reported discovery of human skeletal remains and skulls, which appears to be of quite recent origin, has raises suspicion, especially among the families of those involuntarily disappeared in the hands ofIndian Army paramilitary units that the skeletal remains were those of their loved oneswhose bodies were never recovered.At least twenty-one (21) cases of enforced disappearances (1980 -2011)were recorded by human rights defender organisations in which the main perpetrators were the Central Reserve Police Force, the Assam Rifles, J&K Light Infantry, Madras Regiment, Sikh Infantry, etc., there are reasonable grounds to say there could be many more.
The Manipur University’s Anthropology Department preliminary estimation of the skeletal remains to be of between 17 and 40 years coincide with the high period of enforced disappearances in Manipur from 1980s till2000s. Human rights defender organisations are certain that the skulls and skeletal discovery is also a tell tale evidence of the systematic pattern of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions carried out by the Indian security forcesstationed in Manipur ever since the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 was promulgated. The site of skeletal remains discovery is in very close proximity to the Kangla Fort, a traditional and historical capital of the former independent state of Manipur that was converted into a Indian military garrison for long (from 1949 till 2005), and also notorious for the rigorous detention and interrogation, torture and extrajudicial executions of those believed to be involved in Manipur’s self determination struggle. Kangla Fort is also believed to have similar mass burial sites as it was also the main interrogation cell of central para-military forces. The 17 Assam Rifles and Indian army units were forced out of Kangla Fort after the infamous case of the rape and murder of Miss Thangjam Manorama by 17 Assam Rifles personnel on 11 July 2004.
Excavation works using heavy machinery continued to dig and remove earth from the compound for another five days despite this gruesome discovery. No concrete action hasso far been taken up regarding any expert forensic – archaeological investigation. A team of FIDAM functionaries visited the premiseson 27 December morning and were shocked to find that digging of the ground continues unabated. Mr R.C. Chatterjee, the Supervising Engineer of the Simplex Project Limited, which is the contracted private firm carrying out the excavation works, expressed his inability to halt the digging without orders from the higher authorities.
The Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association, Manipur (FIDAM) subsequently submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur, Mr Okram Ibobi Singh on 27 December 2014 requesting him to halt all construction work at Tombisana School and to institute a full independent inquiry to ascertain all facts. The Chief Minister did not take any tangible immediate action in response to this petition.The non-declaration of the site as a “crime scene” and continuation of digging and earth excavation uncared of destruction of evidences and efforts for thorough excavation for additional skeletal remains despite media reports of discovery of skulls and skeletal remains by the Government of Manipur already constitute a violation and indeed a process to manipulate and tamper evidence.
On 29 December 2014, FIDAM and Human Rights Alert also filed a case at the High Court of Manipur in connection with the discovery of eight human skulls and number of skeletons from a school compound that had been shut down for some years. The petition sought an interim order directing the government of Manipur to halt ongoing construction work at the site of the discovery until a scientific or systematic exhumation is carried out throughout the length and breadth of the former school compound. The petition also sought the incorporation of FIDAM in the course of any investigation regarding the disturbing discovery.
Under intense public pressure, the Government of Manipur, on 29 December 2014, decided tohand over the investigation on skulls recovery to a central agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or National Investigation Agency (NIA) or Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL). A press release issued on 29 December 2014 from the Secretary to the Chief Minister, Mr. N. Ashok Kumar announced that the cabinet of Ministers had approved the government’s decision and resolved to hand over the case to the CBI . However, the people are concerned that the agency, which has been under a cloud for long of political patronage and also cautioned by the Supreme Court of India, will rather serve the interest of government and undermine justice sought by victims of the families of the disappeared, the government made no attempt to halt the continuing excavations and disturbances of a possible crime scene. The people are also worried of manipulations with the evidences and skeletal remains during the investigations unless taken up in a fair, impartial and transparent systematic and expert driven process with international forensic, anthropological and archaeological scientists.
The Manipur High Court heard the petition on 7 January 2015, and petition was withdrawn under pressure from the Chief Justice of the high court. The reasons given by the court was that the government had already recently made a decision to hand over the investigation to the CBI. No interim order was issued, and the case was dropped, despite the fact that till the day of the hearing, the government had not issued any formal notification of the cabinet decision nor had they informed the CBI or Government of India after 9 full days of such decision.
MANIPUR AND ARMED CONFLICT SITUATION:
Manipur witnessed human rights violations, arbitrary killing, detention, fake encounters, enforced or involuntary disappearances, violence against women, since the imposition of the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Act, 1958 (AFSPA), a controversial legislation that accorded wide sweeping powers to the Indian Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations in Manipur.Under this Act, Indian Army was conferred unrestricted and unaccountable power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared as “disturbed area”. Indian security forces personnel up to the rank of a non-commissioned officer are granted powers to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion to “maintain public order”. Further AFSPA provides legal immunity to the Indian army involved in human rights violations. A clubbed public interest case of over 1,500 alleged fake encounter killings, filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association, Manipur (EEVFAM) and Human Rights Alert, is currently sub judice before the Supreme Court of India.
|Sl. No.||Last Seen||Name of the Person||Alleged Perpetrator||Present Status|
|1||September 23, 1980||Mr. Th. Lokendro||15th Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, Indian Army||Still Missing|
|2||September 23, 1980||Mr. Kangujam Loken||15th Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, Indian Army||Still Missing|
|3||December 2, 1980||Mr. M. Tomba||JK Light Infantry, Indian Army, stationed at Wapokpi||Still Missing|
|4||January 15, 1981||Mr. Chandam Chaoba||Central Reserve Police Force stationed at Mantripukhri||Still Missing|
|5||March 1982||Mr. C. Daniel||21st Sikh Regiment Light Infantry, Indian Army, stationed at Ukhrul||Still Missing|
|6||March 1982||Mr. C. Paul||Sikh Regiment, Indian Army, stationed at Ukhrul||Still Missing|
|7||October 1984||Mr. Kh. Budha||Indian Army stationed at Leimakhong||Still Missing|
|8||July 9, 1987||Mr. R. S. Issac||Assam Rifles, Indian Army, stationed at Ukhrul||Still Missing|
|9||July 25, 1994||Mr. M. Kaizalal Paite||20th Battalion, Assam Rifles, stationed at Somsai, Ukhrul||Still Missing|
|10||April 29, 1995||Mr. Kingsutlin Kom||Central Reserve Police Force stationed at Imphal||Still Missing|
|11||June 4, 1995||Mr. Ng. Angpok||6th Madras Regiment stationed at Chandel District Headquarters, Manipur||Still Missing|
|12||August 11, 1995||Mr. N.S. John||Rifleman No. 3101307 of 31st Assam Rifles, Charduar Head Quarters, Sonitpur (Assam)||Still Missing|
|13||June 4/5, 1996||Mr. L. Bijoykumar||Unknown Hindi-speaking UNIDENTIFIED armed personnel in military uniform||Still Missing|
|14||June 6, 1996||Mr. T. Mahaimi||Combined Forces of 3rd Corps of Indian Armed Forces||Still Missing|
|15||February 12, 1998||Mr. Y. Sanamacha||17th Rajputana Rifles, Indian Army, stationed at Yairipok||Still Missing|
|16||September 24/25, 1998||Mr. Kh. Yaima||317th Field Regiment, Indian Army, stationed at Jiribam, Imphal East||Still Missing|
|17||July 25, 1999||Mr. Tayab Ali||17th Assam Rifles, Indian Army, stationed at Kangla||Still Missing|
Source: Habeas Corpus Petitions in the Gauhati High Court on Enforced Disappearances in Manipur as of August 2008
The FIDAM and CSCHR Manipur would like to urge the Government of India to:
- Institute a Special Commission of Medico-Legal Forensic-Archaeological Inquiry, comprising legal luminaries, forensic and archaeological experts of international reputation, human rights defender organisations, Victims’ families representatives, etc., to investigate discovery of human skulls and skeleton from former Tombisana High School on 25 December 2014, earlier occupied by Indian security forces and army units and Manipur Police.
- Prosecute all those Indian Army personnel confirmed to be involved in enforced disappearances in Manipur
- Government of India should promotely ratify the International Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearacnces (CED), which India has already signed on 6 February 2007, and as recommended by the Working Group on UPR of the UN Human Rights Council.
- Repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, etc.
PLEASE WRITE TO THE FOLLOWING OFFICIALS OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA:
Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110011
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan, Block-C, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi – 110023
Fax: + 91 11 2338 4863
Okram Ibobi Singh
Chief Minister of Manipur
New Secretariat Building
Bapupara, Imphal 795001, Manipur, India
INDIAFax + 91 385 2451398
- K. Paul
Governor of Manipur, Raj Bhawan, Imphal 795001, India
Director General of Police, Manipur
Babupara, Imphal 795001, India
Fax: +91 385 2451 100