NHRC unhappy with rights situation in Manipur

Terming human rights situation in Manipur as "deeply depressing", NHRC said it could not find any of the 44 encounters it took up as "genuine".

New Delhi: Terming human rights situation in Manipur as "deeply depressing", NHRC on Tuesday said it could not find any of the 44 encounters it took up as "genuine" and observed that while AFSPA "is made the villain" for extra judicial killings, majority of them are carried out by police.

Sharing the findings of its camp sittings, the rights body said that midday meal scheme, aanganwadi and hospitals were dysfunctional and no medicine was procured or distributed by the state government in the last one-and-a-half years.

"As substantial number of complaints regarding extra judicial killings come for Manipur, we took 44 cases in Imphal, of these 44, as if now we have been unable to close any case with a finding that the report given to us was true that this was a genuine encounter. We have been unable to make that finding so far in any of the case so far," Commission member Satyabrata Pal said.

Pal also pointed out that although Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which protests army personnel against prosecution is made the villain in extra judicial killings, most of the encounters are carried out by the police.

"They (police) enjoy the fullest protection of the state. To our knowledge, the state government has not taken action against any policemen," he said.

"We met Irom Sharmila (rights activist) and told her that you may be fighting a lone battle for repeal of AFSPA thinking that this would stop encounters but majority of the killings are done by police. AFSPA is notorious but I don`t understand why the police do it," he said.

Pal said that the commission can only bring partial closure to the cases by recommending monetary relief while culprits go unpunished as no action against the armed forces can be taken due to AFSPA while the police are being protected by the state government.

"What we have been able to do is that in 30 cases we have come to clear findings that the report given to us were not true. The incidents took place mostly between mid to the late 2000. On the other cases, the 14, which remain outstanding, the state has to send us more documents in support of its contention that these were genuine encounters," he said.

"In all these 30 cases, we have either issued show cause notices where we have asked the state why we should not offer relief or having received responses to such notices have then made recommendations for relief to the family and in three out of this 30 cases, we were able to close them in Imphal having received proof that the relief has been paid," he said.

Pal also blamed the state government of being "reluctant" to receive the commission .

"We found at the very outset that there was strange resistance in the government of Manipur in receiving the members of commission. It was very unusual, unprecedented and when we were in Imphal we conveyed this. They were reluctant to receive the commission," he said.

"However, once we reached there we got full cooperation but it took enormous amount of persuasion to try to get the government of Manipur to understand that the Commission was not an adversary, that we are on the same side, that our interest is exactly what should be the interest of the bureaucracy of any state trying to ensure that any programme devised for the betterment of the citizens of the state actually works, that is our work," he said.

He said some of the data sought by the panel on social welfare programmes was not provided.

"In the visits that our officials made, they came across some very disturbing findings about which we drew the attention of the Chief Secretary and his colleagues including evidence, for instance, the midday meal was dysfunctional in the state."

"They came across schools, where school children said that they perhaps had the meal given to them only once or twice in the whole of this year," he said.

"Aganwadi centre were dysfunctional, not working at all, they (officials) went to primary health centres (CHCs) which were in an utterly sorry state," he said.

The NHRC delegation found that not just CHCs, even the district hospitals were in "pathetic" condition.

"We went to Churachandpur district hospital which again we found in a very pathetic condition and in the course of our visit when we were discussing things with senior officials who look after health in the state, it transpired that in a year and a half the government of Manipur had ordered no medicine at all," he said.

"All of this we found deeply depressing, we have raised this things both with meetings with the senior bureaucracy and we will, of course, send our findings to the state and expect that the state government will take corrective action and report back to us," he said.

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