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Noises of the Silence – Part 1

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By:Jinine Lai
That was around late 1970s. As a little boy I could sense the air of military phobia in my village. Most of the days were quiet and still. People did not speak loudly anything. The villagers were not going out of their houses for cultivation, fishing and other outdoor activities. One mentally disabled man about fifty was very exceptional who dared out in the paddy field. I heard people whispered about brutal torture on him by the Indian army. Those sun sets were so tensed for the silent evening would cast a dark night of sleeplessness. I cannot forget the various facets of militarization and armed conflict that people were whispering around. I remember those scary nights of hearing army’s vehicles and pounding boots, then daybreak combing operations, separation of adult male from women and day long torture in the summer heat in the village grazing grounds. When I was a teenage, there were talks and noises I heard from the outside coming to my village – killings and tortures by government armed forces.The hearsay came real shock to my village; I was numb – at the time the neighborhood of Phubala began crying as the body of one local uncle,MoirangthemIngobicoming home dead. He was killed in 1981 in Kwakeithelalong with some artists.Heirangaithong 1984 – killed 13 people by CRPF at, Oinam 1987 – 15 people killed. During the time I heard the noises from Naga groups, All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU), MeiraPaibis and Committee on Human Rights Manipur (COHR). The armed conflict environment petted my basic instinct towards making noises for justice. It had made me participate in student’s activities in late 80s and print media in 90’s. Again, when a strange maiden had decided to go on her hunger strike unto death after Assam Rifles killed 10 innocent civilians near the Imphal airport, an empathy moved me. Moreover by witnessing the agonies of young widows of fake encounter killings, an emotional connection pulled me. The time was when my personal journey entered the experience of having baby and began the psychosomatic entanglement of husband and wife. Mind reflected on the total helplessness of wives and their young children looking at the near future down the line. Early 2000s as I began taking part in human rights work, I was deeply shocked to see – the sudden deaths of husbands leaving the young wives at utmost agonies. Most of the widows did not weep; they seemed they were at a loss as bolt from the blue hit them. The new marriage lives, the hopes, the shared dreams in the light of little kids, all the basic sweetness of life were shattered when their psychological strengths so suddenly vanished. About 70% of the victims of custodial killings in Manipur were recently married to and young fathers, leaving one kid or two. Most of their survived children were of aged about 1 month to 6 years, and many a married wives were survived getting pregnant at the time their husbands were killed. Majority of the victim families were economically much challenged. I was getting into the noises of the first half of the 2010; IromChanu’s hunger strike, brutal killing of MsThangjamManorama, Mother’s nude protest and PebamChitaranjan’sself immolation. Early 2000s I began initiating save Sharmila campaign and later joined the journey of ApunbaLup (a conglomerated body in the valley of Manipur). As the noise of Manorama and Mothers’ nude protest got fading away, there sensed a silence which sent shivers down the people’s spine. That was about 3 years in prior to BT Road killing in summer of 2009. That episode appeared to be nostalgia of military phobia of my younger years. For desolated Manipur, dismay morning were breaking only to let insomber nights soon. The usual scene of the localities of the victims of fake encounter killings were drawn by the mute and tensed. The atmosphere was gloom after military and police shot dead the victims. Apprehension of the intimidations and tortures often smeared the locals’ faces with fear, and in no time silence loomed though there were some noises that triggered by the tears of the deceased families. Chills were instilled by the presence of camouflaged sepoys and AK 47- police commandos around the victims’ residences. The prolonged military activities fractured million minds and snuffed out over thousand lives. People were getting tired of protesting time and again, their noises got fade away. Impunity is one strong gag that discouraged the people while encouraging the perpetrators getting away scot-free every time. We were of really meagre size of human rights defenders visited the victim families and documented the cases. The predictable intimidation from the government military and Police Commandos and life risk exposition to them always gave us hyper-tension. Our expectation of concerted noise from locals and civil societies found belittled owing to state suppression and also due to personal cleverness among the civil societies and NGOs that guided themselves to the safe corners. Somewhere around 2007- 2009 was the height of extrajudicial executions and was also the time least number of human rights defenders were coming out to make noises. The only support we got during such tyranny was from the local journalists in the form of newsreporting. Usually based on their reports we were sneaking into the victims’ places for documentation and counselling. To Access and meetthe victim families was very tense and tough job as the police commandos and military personnel were alert virtually everywhere. We were trying to avoid the them as much as we can. To meet them and answer their questions on the ways was a matter of playing with fire. We carried out the jobs taking great risk on our own because human rights people are normally perceived as enemy by the perpetrators for the obvious reason that we are working for the victims. We do not have any authorized support, recognized identification papers alike. A concern in my mind got ready to flip wings as the military phobia gaining its best weight. I was looking out any collective energy to subside the fear effect in encountering the fake encounter killings happening on daily basis. Finally some local journalists, politicians, lawyers, rights workers and senior citizens were solicited to come to a table. The initiative floated a group called Legal Protection Centre in January 2009. KhaidemTa Mani was president and I coordinated the centre. It pulsated some morale warmness to the victim families and rights defenders. I started family visit of fake encounters on my old Yamaha motorcycle with a colleague in early 2000s.Ever since I had been planning to bring up the victims’ families from traumatized surface up to the platform of campaigners. We have collected copies of victims’ photos, academic documents, the families gave us best information they could recollect and shared their emotions well and extensively. During a fact finding visit I met one energetic LoitongbamSarat, father of a fake encounter victim from Singjamei. His 34 year old son, Loitongbam Satish was killed by a team of Thoubal Police Commandos and 23 Assam Rifles on 18 May 2009. As he began showed his concern to involve in fighting against the ever rising extrajudicial execution in Manipur, I shared the information of the unfair deaths which had been documenting since 2004. He took a good responsibility to concertize an organization. I coined it EEFAM for Extrajudicial Execution Family Association Manipur. (Pabung) Sarat added V for Victims’ thus shaped EEVFAM on 11 July 2009 finally.

(The writer is an Asst. Prof. at University of Suwon, S Korea)

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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