IMPHAL: The protest in Manipur, launched to condemn the July 23 killing in a “fake encounter” of a former militant and a pregnant woman, has snowballed into a major political issue.
Now the Apunba Lup, an apex body of the voluntary organisations, which has been spearheading the agitation, is demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi on moral grounds. It has also called for the social boycott of the MLAs of the ruling Congress-CPI coalition and the prosecution of the commandos involved in the killings.
Thokchom Rabina, 22, pregnant for seven months, was killed in front of her two-year-old son. Five others, including three women, were also injured in the shootout. On the same day, Chungkham Sanjit, a former militant, was also gunned down. A photographer had filed how an unarmed former militant, Sanjit, was accosted, how he was talking calmly to the police commandos and how he was pushed into a pharmacy, from where his body was dragged out after the “encounter” and then thrown into a van in which Rabina’s body was kept.
Within a few hours, Mr. Ibobi, who also holds the Home portfolio, made a suo motu statement in the Assembly. He said some civilians were killed and some others injured in an encounter with the militant, who was also killed later. “There is no alternative to killing the insurgents [who are unleashing senseless violence in crowded areas].”
Some Opposition party members had backed his statement, but recanted once the facts emerged clear from news reports.
As the curfew and the deployment of the Central forces failed to deter the people from joining the protest, the government ordered a departmental inquiry. But it did not cut ice with the people. Once the photographs were published in Tehelka (August 1-7), the government instituted a magisterial inquiry. The protestors instead demanded a CBI or judicial inquiry. But Mr. Ibobi stalled it.
Concerned at the burgeoning agitation, the Union Home Ministry asked him to open a judicial inquiry. However the Gauhati High Court informed the State government that no judge was available. It was only on September 4 that Justice (Retd.) G.P. Agarwal was appointed to head the commission.
On September 4, Mr. Justice (Retd.) Agarwal ruled out his submitting the report within two months as directed by the government. Taking on the boycott of his commission by the Apunba Lup, he said that if no affidavit was submitted by September 21, the last date would be extended. And he has already extended it to October 8. Since there is no change in the boycott call, the fate of the commission is fairly foreknown.
Mr. Ibobi has been persistently avoiding journalists. The ruling parties have ruled out any change in the leadership.