Over 1,500 human rights activists, civil society leaders, journalists, academics and lawyers from all over India on Tuesday signed a joint statement condemning the first information report (FIR) filed in Imphal against a fact-finding team of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) for concluding that the violence in Manipur was “State-sponsored”.
The three members of the NFIW team – general secretary Annie Raja, national secretary Nisha Sidhu, and independent Delhi-based lawyer Deeksha Dwivedi – were on July 8 booked by the Manipur Police under penal provisions for conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India, assaulting President/Governor with the intent of compelling them to exercise a power, making statements prejudicial to national integration, defamation and promoting enmity among two groups and inciting riots.
In a statement put out by the activists and human rights bodies on Tuesday, the signatories demanded the “immediate closure” of the FIR registered against the NFIW team, and action against the police “who indulged in this malicious act of registering a FIR against the fact-finding team”.
The statement has been signed by over 1,500 activists and human rights bodies, including advocate Prashant Bhushan, activists Kavita Krishnan, Anjali Bhardwaj, erstwhile Amnesty India chief Aakar Patel, Yogendra Yadav, Association for Democratic Reforms co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar, historian Ramchandra Guha, academics Apoorvanand and Nandita Narain. Some signatories are also academics and rights bodies from outside the country.
In the statement, the signatories said, “We defend the right of the NFIW team in conducting this fact-finding visit. The NFIW team’s conclusion is not misplaced that the violence and loss of lives show the failure of due diligence by the State.”
The statement added, “The right to know is protected by our constitutional right as enshrined in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The FIR is a violation of our fundamental right.”
The activists also called for initiating peace-building measures between the Kuki-Zomi and Meitei peoples at the earliest.