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Children Of A Lesser Region

Children of a Lesser Region !!!

We cannot allow the Republic killing own children : The Supreme Court of India while seeking an answer from Delhi and the Government of Andhra Pradesh, over the killing of Maoist leader Azad and journalist Hemchandra Pandey in an alleged fake encounter on the intervening night of July 1 and 2 last year. Justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha have rightfully managed to strike a chord with the common people, especially those living in conflict zone areas like the North East, Maoists active areas and Kashmir. Whether the Andhra Pradesh Government and the Centre will be able to provide clinching evidences that the two were killed in an actual encounter or not will only be known after a thorough investigation, but the significance of the Supreme Court’s advice or directive is not lost on us.

In Irom Sharmila Chanu, we have a living example, who has truly and correctly reflected the inner meaning or the unsaid but understood words in the observations made by the Supreme Court of India. In other words, it was something of the Judiciary taking note or acknowledging the State acting beyond its briefs and indulging in blatant human rights violation. There are reasons why there are so many human rights organizations in the North East and the common strand that runs through all of them is undeniably, the militarization process of the region, in the name of counter-insurgency operations or to put it finely, in the Army’s own words, to help the civil Government.

Herein lies the contradiction. Terms like collateral damages, cross firing, killed in an encounter, etc have all become bazar phrases in the lexicon of the natives of the North East region and today, it is Manipur which is leading the pack and feeling the pinch of the conflict situation. Whenever we refer to the observations of the Supreme Court that the Republic cannot be allowed to kill its own children, let’s remember July 23, 2009 and the ‘˜damning proof’ that Tehelka produced in the form of a series of photographs, showing Sanjit being accosted by some police commandos and being pushed inside a nearby shop or more specifically a pharmacy and later coming out with the lifeless body of the youth, with the police claiming that he was killed in an encounter.

That this occurred right in the heart of the capital city, Imphal and in broad daylight, made no difference and the observation of the Supreme Court will continue to ring in our ears, whenever allegations of fake encounters are raised. Sanjit’s was not a lone case that caught the attention of the public and became a rallying point for all but there have been other instances in the past too. Just remember the month of July and the months that followed in 2004 and one will understand the real meaning and correctly feel the impact of the Supreme Court’s observation. In other words it was reprimanding the Government albeit coated with an avuncular tone of advice, for endorsing State sponsored killings in custody!

The truth is yet to be established but the killing of Azad and Pandey has already stirred a hornet’s nest in Delhi and other parts of the country and while the two slain persons were children of the Republic of India, we wonder under what category the ten civilians who were mowed down by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom in 2000, the RIMS massacre executed with perfection by CRPF men, the Tonsen Lamkhai incident wherein bus passengers were herded down from the vehicle and sprayed with bullets, the civilians, more specifically the spectators at a volleyball match at Heirangoithong, who were fired upon indiscriminately, killing many of them, will come under.

Or were they children of a lesser region or a lesser God or is Delhi tacitly approving the claim and philosophy of many underground outfits, which have always maintained that Manipur was never a part of India? Human rights is a delicate issue and so is operating in a civilian area, where the wanted man may have blended with the crowd effortlessly. This is why we are firm in our philosophy and belief that human rights should not be contained or caged within a definition but should be universal in the sense that anyone who dons the role of the policeman, the Judge and the executioner stands guilty of violating human rights. Such elements need not necessarily come from the military establishment but also from among the numerous armed groups who also double up as moral policemen of Manipur.

However, it is a pity, or rather a poor reflection on the part of the military establishment, when they point an accusing finger at the public and human rights advocates, for raising a hue and cry when anyone is killed under dubious circumstances and keeping silent when any of the soldiers die in an ambush or an encounter. A proper understanding of the difference between an entity functioning under a written set of rules and regulations and a Constitution and the rebel groups operating from their hideouts is highly needed. The core meaning in the observation of the Supreme Court will not be lost on anyone, especially to those who have been living under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It is something of an irony that an Act like AFSPA can constrain the law or even the Supreme Court from protecting its citizens, or children of the Republic. We are more than sure that the Supreme Court would not have come out with the ‘our children’ statement, which was a tacit reprimand of the Government for endorsing State sponsored fake encounters, if AFSPA were in force in the area where the Maoist leader and journalist were killed.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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