Guwahati/Imphal, March 11: In a shocking incident, Human Rights Alert researcher and member Ranjeeta Sadokpam was allegedly harassed by Manipuri Police and Indian Army personnel on February 26 night. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received the information from Human Rights Alert following which the AHRC has now taken up the matter seriously.
According to reports, the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances calling for their intervention in this matter.
Here is the case narrative published by AHRC on the issue which narrates the sequence of events on that night:
“At around 1 am in the intervening night of 26th and 27th February 2018, Ms.Ranjeeta Sadokpam was disturbed by a voice outside of her house calling for a ‘Somendro.’ She replied to the voice saying that there was no such person staying in her house, however, there was repeated calls for her to open the door. Stepping out onto her balcony on the first floor, she saw a Manipuri police officer outside her door. He then demanded that she open the door as they wanted to conduct a search. Upon her asking if there was an authorised officer to conduct such a search, an army personnel stepped out into the dim light. He identified himself as an Army Major.
Ms. Ranjeeta stepped back into her house to discuss what was to be done with her siblings. The knocks grew louder and more insistent. Mr. Dhiren A. Sadokpam, the elder brother of Ranjeeta is an independent researcher and journalist who previously worked for India Today Group in Delhi. He contacted an Army Officer on the phone. Ms. Ranjeeta opened the door and stepped outside with the phone in her and the Army Officer on call, she handed over the phone to the Army Major.
When she looked around, she discovered that there were many more Army Personnel and Manipuri Policemen surrounding her house and neighbourhood. There was also a masked man present.
The Army Officer then asked his team to identify Mr. Dhiren, whose identity card was presented to the Officer. This ID card was shown to the masked man who nodded in negative. Then the officer interrogated Mr. Dhiren about his family. That was when Mr. Dhiren’s younger brother, Ronen, was called out from the adjacent building where he lived. When Ronen and his wife came to the scene, the masked man nodded positively upon seeing Ronen. That was when Ms. Ranjeeta intervened and clarified that Ronen was not the Somendro that they were looking for. Ronen was cornered at a short distance from the house and was spoken to by the army officer and other personnel. ID documents of Ronen were shown to them.
Later, the whole family was required to sign a declaration which was not read out to them and then the personnel left the area.”
AHRC has meanwhile demanded that the Government of Manipur must ensure that the safety of Ranjeeta and her family such intimidation and threats must be stopped. It also demanded that due process must be followed in every single case and FIRs must be registered against the security force members who harassed Ranjeeta and her family.
AHRC has also highlighted the possible reason behind such attacks as “Additional Information” in the statement which is the following:
“In July 2017, India’s apex court passed a historic judgment in the case Extrajudicial Execution Victims’ Families Association, Manipur and Another Vs. Union of India and Ors.[Writ Petition (Crim.) 129 of 2012]. reiterating the primacy of rule of law and that there can be no justification to bypass it. The SC ordered that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) set up an independent Special Investigating Team to enquire into the allegations of ‘fake encounters’ in Manipur. The order comes after the Court had earlier passed a judgment in July 2016 holding that any allegation of the use of excessive or retaliatory force by ‘uniformed personnel’ must be enquired into, along with a direction to the petitioners to provide adequate documentation.
The Human Rights Alert Manipur is Petitioner No. 2 of the case Extrajudicial Execution Victims’ Families Association, Manipur and Another Vs. Union of India and Another [Writ Petition (Cril) 129 of 2012]. Therefore, they could be targets of such intimidation due to the nature of their work, taking on the state authorities and demanding that rule of law is followed. This incident has taken place at a time when the CBI and NHRC investigations are ongoing into the role of the Manipur Police and the Army in these killings.
An F.I.R should be lodged against the army and police personnel who intimidated Ms. Ranjeeta and her family that night. A quick and impartial investigation must be undertaken for the act. At a time when there are investigations into the many extrajudicial killings in the state of Manipur, the safety of the persons who fight for the rights of victims must be ensured by the Government of India.
Further, as a human rights defender, Ranjeeta must be protected against threats. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, stated that governments have the duty to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their efforts to promote human rights. Therefore, the government is bound by its international legal obligations to ensure that all activists and human rights defenders are provided with protection against arbitrary arrests under false charges, security against violence from law enforcement, so that they may enjoy their constitutional right to due process, life and liberty under Article 21, and the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).”
It has also suggested a possible line of reaction/action for all the concerned people which is to write letters highlighting the issue to concerned authorities. They have drafted a sample letter which is the following:
INDIA: Human Rights Defender in Manipur intimidated by the Army and the Manipur Police.
Name of victim: Ms. Ranjeeta and her family.
Names of alleged perpetrators: Manipur Police and Indian Army Personnel.
Date of incident: 26/27th February, 2018.
Place of incident: Imphal, Manipur, India
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the recent report of intimidation in Manipur received by the Asian Human Rights Commission from Human Rights Alert, Manipur. Women Human Rights Defender and researcher at Human Rights Alert, Ms. Ranjeeta Sadokpam and her family were woken up in the middle of the night to demands to search by Army and Police Personnel. They were interrogated through the night.
At the odd hour of 1 am on the 28th of February 2018, Ms. Ranjeeta heard voices calling out for one ‘Somendro.’ Her replies of no such person being present in the house was not enough as the calls went on. When she went out onto the first floor balcony, she saw a man in the Manipur police uniform. He demanded that a search was to be conducted. When asked if there was an authorised officer to conduct such a search – an Army Major stepped out.
When she went back inside, she consulted with her siblings as the knocks grew relentless. Her elder brother, Mr. Dhiren, called an army officer. With him on the phone line, Ms. Ranjeeta stepped out of the house and passed the phone to the officer. That was when she noticed there were more army personnel and Manipuri police, including a masked man, surrounding her house. Mr. Dhiren was required to show his Identity Card to the officer, then the masked man upon seeing Mr. Dhiren nodded in negative. Then Mr. Dhiren’s younger brother was called out from the adjacent building. When the masked man saw him, he nodded in positive. Ranjeeta intervened, stating that the ‘Somendro’ that they were looking for was not him. His identity proof too was shown to them. After the personnel interrogated them for a while, the whole family was required to sign a declaration which was not read out to them.
It was fearsome to note such acts of harassment against Human Rights Defenders in the region. It is of great concern as, according to the Supreme Court of India order, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Human Rights Commission are conducting an investigation into the accounts of extra judicial killings by teams of Manipuri Police and the Army.
The Human Rights Alert in Manipur is an active advocate against extrajudicial killings in the region, even being a petitioner to such a case in the Supreme Court of India. Therefore, there is a threat to their safety. Human Rights defenders must not live in fear for work that they do and the Government of India must ensure their security.
Thereby, I request you to register an F.I.R against the perpetrators of the incident and conduct an impartial as well as quick investigation. Please take all action necessary to ensure that there is no threat to Ms. Ranjeeta and her family members.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. L.M. Khaute
IPS Director General of Police (DGP),
Manipur Police Headquarters
2. Justice HL Dattu
National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan,
Block-C, GPO Complex, INA
New Delhi – 110 023.
3. Shri Rajnath Singh
Minister of Home Affairs
Room No.104, North Block, Central Secretariat
New Delhi – 110001.
Tel: +9111 23092462
Fax: +9111 23094221
4.Dr. Agnes Callamard
UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
OHCHR-UNOG, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, 1211
Geneve 10, Switzerland
Fax: 0041 22 917 9006
5.Ms. Houria Es-Slami, Chair-Rapporteur
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
c/o OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211
Geneva 10 Switzerland
Fax: 0041 22917 90 06
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asian Human Rights Commission
52 Princess Margaret Road
Ho Man Tin, Kowloon
Tel: +(852) 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) 2698-6367