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The Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights in Manipur (CSCHR), a conglomerate of nine human rights organisations, has together written to the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, calling the commission’s intervention in connection with what it described as the recent spree of arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders of Manipur for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The letter said on 3 April 2020, at around 6.00 PM a team of Imphal West police came to Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy’s residence in Yaiskul.
Dr. Laifungbam it said is a senior public health physician, who is also the president of Centre for Organisation, Research and Education (CORE), which is one of the constituent members of CSCHR. Dr. Laifungbam was summoned to the police station in connection with his Facebook post wherein he stated:
“The present Manipur Chief Minister, especially at this time of crisis, should desist from wasting state resources, time and personnel in carrying out any personal political agenda or vendetta. It demeans and belittles the position occupied and the responsibility that entails.”
The complaint further said “as soon as he reached the police station he was immediately sent to lock-up till the filing of this petition. No arrest memo was issued nor was an FIR registered till date. He was reportedly asked to make a public apology in social media and mainstream media for giving a statement against the Chief Minister.”
Giving context, the letter said “It may be noted that just a few days ago, on 1 April 2020 at around 9:00 PM, Mr. T Shadishkanta, Secretary of Youth’s Forum for Protection of Human Rights (YFPHR) was picked up by a team of Porompat Police Station, Imphal East from his residence without any arrest warrant and without issuing arrest memo.”
It said the “Police filed an FIR No: 67(4) 2020 Porompat Police Station U/s. 51 (b) Disaster Management Act, 2005 and 120 B IPC against him in connection with a press statement which the YFPHR has issued.” It added that Mr. Shadishkanta was pressured to produce Mr. Phajaton, President of YFPHR under whose signature the said press statement was issued.
It further recounted that “on 2 April, 2020 at around 9:00 AM, the Officer in Charge of Patsoi Police Station came to the house of Phajaton. The police team informed his father to produce him before the police without any delay. Phajaton’s father was threatened that if Phajaton failed to report to the Police Station, he may be booked under the National Security Act (NSA). At around 2:30 PM Phajaton along with some members of YFPHR visited the office of the Superintendent of Police, Imphal West.”
“Thereafter, the second Officer in Charge of Imphal Police Station recorded the statement of Phajaton. He was later informed that he was also booked under FIR No: 67(4) 2020 Porompat Police Station. Both Phajaton and Shadishkanta were released on bail only after they had been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East.”
The complaint letter further said that “yet in another incident, on 1 April 2020 at around 7:30 PM, Mr. Konsam Victor Singh (40 years) of Khurai Konsam Leikai, Imphal East District was arbitrarily detained by a team of Imphal East Police in connection with his Facebook post stating that:
“CM covid-19 relief fund da CM Biren masagi oiba lupa kaya hapkhi khangbiba yaobibaro? (Does anyboby know how much has CM Biren contributed to the CM covid-19 relief fund?)”
He was released only after he had deleted the said post the next day. He was also reportedly forced to apologize after duly subjecting him to humiliating and degrading treatment, the release further said.
“In the light of the above stated facts, specially at this juncture where the Government is trying to work closely with the civil society to combat COVID-19 pandemic, such high handed and irresponsible act of the state will only polarize the society thereby hindering the collective effort” the complaint continued.
The complainants sought the NHRC to take necessary intervention so that such harassments will end and the FIRS on those already registered be revoked, and to direct the law enforcers to abide by the rule of law.
The leaders of the nine organisations who signed the complaint to the NHRC are:
Phulindro Konsam Co-Convenor, Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights in Manipur and UN (CSCHR)
Babloo Loitongbam Executive Director, Human Rights Alert (HRA)
Joy Chingakham Chairman, Human Rights Defenders Manipur (HRDM)
Okram Nutankumar Singh Secretary, Committee on Human Rights (COHR), Manipur
Jiten Yumnam Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM)
Kshetrimayum Onil Lead Coordinator, Reachout
Khangembam Anandi Managing Trustee, Just Peace Foundation (JPF)
Renu Takhelambam President, Extrajudicial Execution Victims Family Association, Manipur (EEVFAM)
Ms. Santa Khurai Secretary, All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA)