By: Jinine Lai
The pattern of fake encounter killings of Manipur appears passing through a timeline marked by pre 2005 and post 2005.
In pre 2005, the perpetrator’s names are much of the Central Government of India namely Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Forces (BSF), Maratha Regiment, Raj Rifles, Rajput Regiment, JK Rifles, etc. However in post 2005, the Assam Rifles and Manipur Police Commandos have relatively increased their activities and involvement in human rights violation incidents. The term, Assam Rifles is very much of the North East India which gives a confused understanding of the violators that sounds a type of internal and fraternal involvement to the international and national perception in the likely ostensible absent of Indian Government’s responsibility. And another similar reality is Manipur Police Commandos which the entire manpower is of the soil.Thus the increase involvement of the Police and Assam Rifles was supposed to absolve the culpability of the central Indian Forces.
In the earlier period of pre 2005, one nature of the violations was, at the outset, the government armed forces picked up the victims without issuing arrest memos, detained illegally, administered various types of torture forcing them to accept they were members of the outlawed organizations or to extract information, clicked photos of the victims in the custody, got recorded their names, particulars adding to the list of so called extremists. The more army arrested people, the longer the list and eventually they were promoted to higher posts and awarded incentives.
Usually the same armed forces group would not stay long in a same station. They would shift within a period of from six months to two or three years. A new group would come to see the record of the extremists handled by the earlier group. They would start their operation checking persons in the list. Very unfortunately most of the torture victims in the list would be picked up and killed in the fake encounters. Some of the victims of the tortures who had gone to the law court for illegal detention and degrading treatment would usually survive the cruel action. However, the most of the victims had not the courage to file cases against the military. Due to intimidation from military and ignorance as well only few of them went to law courts. Many of them lost their lives in next cycle of rights violations.
Thus a changing pattern of rights violations started being seen in the late 2005. This time-line seems to be noticed by
1. Strong anti AFSPA protest of the people in 2004 following the rape and murder of MsManorama by the government forces.
2. The recommendations from Review Committee of Home Minister of India andAmnesty International for reviewing/repealing the AFSPA.
3. And, four points proposal of plebiscite by a political armed organization, United National Liberation Front to government of India in January 2005.
In cases of post 2005, so called Police and Commandos were becoming very active in the killings, they committed the crimes in combined with Assam Rifles or sometimes with Regular Army. They killed the young boys and newly married men aged from 16 to 35 which constituted about 90% of killings. Ironically some of victims were ambitious to join Indian Armed Forces. According to the statements of the victim families and friends, they attended selection tests and walk in interviews.
More than 90 percent of the victims were tortured so badly before they were shot dead. It is feared that many of them even breathed last during the cruel and inhuman act. The tortures were somewhat executed silently somewhere shying away from public and media. But each body bore loud noise of bullet blast; the civilians heard the gun fires, the killers claimed the acts and local media carried the police reports.
According to claims from victim families, circumstantial study and media reports, regarding the arms recovery, only about 10% of the data may be accurate. After security forces killed the victims, they planted the arms nearby the body or even they leveled up faults confessions of possessing arms by using various ways of threats. For such arms recovery incidents, the army and police use some certain limited arms over and again that they had recovered in previous incidents. When they recovered money, they count less in media therefore it is considered that the data on the amount of money recovered from the AOGs and other outfits is another tip of the iceberg. Such incidents happen in the pre as well as post 2005 period.
The possibility of exposing one’s life to the shot dead and dead body found is also increasing. According to the testimonies of the some victim families, when someone especially lone rider or driver passes through particularly security personnel, more dangerously after sun set and at a spot less travelers pass by, in case, the person happens to have cash normally above INR 5000, expensive cell phone and gold made ornaments are at risk. Sometimes male of no age bar and even duo on vehicle are not spared. The most of the victim families found the body missing those possessions. One of the causes of such violations as general people believe is that the police commandos had given bribe, about INR 300,000 – 12, 00, 000 to get the job. People fear they commit crimes to enable to meet the monthly payment of the interest of the amount used for the bribery they borrowed. In fact their salary is not at par they expect.
And again, there are claims about government forces are using some drug users and anti social elements as their informers providing them money and drugs. The killings based on the misled information supplied by such agents are happening frequently. People fear, sometimes it turns out of taking revenge on the personal grudges.
Also people had a firm suspicion on the involvement of the police personnel in the robbery episodes by mysterious men in black. For the simple reason that the man disappeared so illusively at the moment police Jeep/Gypsy appeared on the spot. In a few cases, according to eye witnesses met in the field visits, the man in black got into the vehicles of the security personnel and driven along. In most incidents when locals had catch attempt on, they found police vehicles already stationed somewhere around the spot. Next morning newspapers reported the police drove into the spot but not found the suspect.
Out of 100 cases of extremists/outfits arrested as claimed by security, about 90 cases found difficult to be proved guilty. About 95% were detained illegally and carried out without issuing arrest memos in spite of Supreme Court’s order. One alleged happening was when army and police arrested members of the Armed Oppositions and other proscribed outfits, money would be a negotiating lever either to release them or to send them to jail alive. If the underground happened to be picked up with arms and weapons seldom they were safe, for they would be killed in fake encounters. As the ranks of the so called extremists differ, the bargaining cost also varied. According to unconfirmed reports it ranged from about INR 50,000 to INR 500,000. Nevertheless, in case of top braces of underground arrested such deal might not be exercised for some army officers prefer promotion and award.
Concerning the FIR of the cases, the police identified and noted the people killed in the fake encounters as culprits not as victims. This is one big hurdle at the very outset of the legal course. We often talked to the families and locals to make noises through kind of protests and local actions if possible for it would help legal endeavor in some ways. As we have one or two lawyer friends who willing to fight for human rights we encouraged the families to come to the law court. Interestingly some MLAs sneaked into the matter to make the families and locals silent extending INR 10-20 thousand to them. Sometimes military approached the families when they heard the family had initiated litigation or was about to go to law court. They would start talking with victim’s party offering sop. They came in civil clothes with human like faces this time to request the families not to go to court or to withdraw the case since the law court can bother them.
(The writer is an Asst. Prof. University of Suwon, S Korea)