Politics

Militants Threaten SC Lawyer Fighting Against Manipur CM’s Son to Drop Case

Activist Binalakshmi Nepram, who helped the family get the lawyer, has also alleged the state police is trying to intimidate her.

Irom Roger’s family with his photo. Credit: Facebook

New Delhi: A Supreme Court lawyer appearing for a 21-year-old man who was allegedly murdered by Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh’s son has written a letter to the Union home secretary alleging that he received a message from militant groups asking him to drop the case.

In March 2011, Biren’s son, N. Ajay, was accused of shooting Irom Roger after an altercation on Holi near Imphal’s Tulihal airport. Owing to public pressure, the then state government handed over the case to the CBI two months later. In January 2017, an Imphal sessions court held 33-year-old Ajay guilty of “homicide not amounting to murder” under section 304 (2). Ajay has challenged the order in the high court and has applied for bail. He has since been in Sajiwa central jail.

In his letter to the home secretary on May 3, Utsav Singh Bains said he received a WhatsApp call on March 22, at around 3.30 am. “The person who spoke in broken English with a Manipur accent, said that he’s calling from PLA (Peoples Liberation Army), Manipur and NSCIM (NSCN-Isak-Muivah) and that I shouldn’t go ahead with the case of Irom Rogers, who was murdered by the son of the present chief minister N. Biren Singh. I couldn’t understand what was PLA or NSCIM during the call but later when I searched for both on Google, I came to know that PLA is terror organisation operating in the North East but couldn’t find clarity as to NSCIM. Later during the day (March 22), I informed [the] superintendent of police (CID) Imphal, Manipur, about the threatening calls,” the letter said.

Bains told the media that he decided not to visit Imphal after the call and tried engaging lawyers from the Manipur high court. He said all the lawyers he contacted “refused to be associated with the case as they feared for their lives.” Thereafter, Bains went to Imphal “inspite of the threat”.

In the letter to the home secretary, he sought security cover while visiting Imphal from May 10 onwards “until the case is pending for arguments at the Manipur high court”. Bains, has, however, not received any police protection yet.

On May 12, Bains, on behalf of Roger’s mother Irom Chitra, filed a petition in the state high court contending that the CBI botched up the case by not accusing him of murder. Chitra told local media that she feared that Ajay, being the chief minister’s son, would soon get bail from the high court.

On May 11, responding to the news about Bains’ letter, Biren tweeted: “My son was handed over to CBI by me, already in jail, no need help. Threaten case is serious, will be handed over to NIA [National Investigation Agency, a central body under union home ministry] for investigation.”

Meanwhile, human rights activist Binalakshmi Nepram has alleged that armed personnel from the state police “intimidated and harassed” her octogenarian parents at her house in Imphal because she has been helping Roger’s family in the case. “Heavily armed state police force entered my parental house at around 1.30 pm in the afternoon on May 12 and asked for me in a very intimidating manner,” she said in a note released to the press.

Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, said, “Police are meant to protect citizens and not to be used to harass innocent civilians. We have stood strong over ten years for peace and justice to the people of Manipur and entire Northeast region and will not be bogged down by such threats and intimidation emanating from state machinery.” She was not present at home then.

Nepram helped Roger’s family hire the Supreme Court lawyer as “no lawyer in Imphal was willing to take up his case”.

Soon after Nepram’s allegation, state inspector general of police (IGP) Clay Khongsai denied it, telling the media, “an investigating officer (IO) went looking for her to take her statement as she was one of the two persons known to be closest to Bains who left Imphal without meeting the IO (after lodging a complaint) and recording his statement.”

The IGP said the IO also visited the house of the other person, Congress MLA N. Ratan, from Heingang but failed to meet him too. Ratan contested against Biren from the Heingang constituency in the last assembly polls.

On May 13, addressing the local media, state director general of police (DGP) L.M. Khaute, however, said that the state police is investigating two individuals regarding the case and went on to name Ratan and Nepram. The DGP also reportedly told the media that no complaint was made to the superintendent of police (CID) against the militant threat by Bains.

Responding to it on May 14, Bains wrote a letter to the secretary, department of personnel and training, New Delhi, seeking an enquiry against the DGP for stating “false facts intentionally to the media”.