New Delhi: A case has been registered against the three members of a fact-finding team which visited Manipur recently and declared that the ethnic clashes in the state were the result of “state-sponsored violence”.
The first information report (FIR) was registered on July 8 at the Imphal police station against Annie Raja, Nisha Siddhu and Deeksha Dwivedi. The three women were part of a the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)’s fact-finding team that visited Manipur from June 28 to July 1. Raja is the general secretary of NFIW while Sidhu is its national secretary. Dwivedi is a Delhi-based lawyer.
According to reports, the FIR invokes several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including waging war against the state, provocation and defamation. The complaint was filed by one L. Liben Singh for statements made by the three women at a press conference where they detailed their findings.
The case against the fact-finding team comes after three people – a leading academic and two Kuki activists – were summoned by an Imphal court in cases filed by Meitei activists who claimed that statements made by them in recent interviews with The Wire had “inflamed communal passions”.
The three women had said a press conference on July 2 that the clashes in Manipur are “not communal violence nor is it merely a fight between two communities.” It involves the “questions of land, resources, and the presence of fanatics and militants. The government shrewdly carried out strategies to materialise its hidden pro-corporate agenda, which has led to the current crisis”, they said.
They called it “state-sponsored violence” which “didn’t occur without any build-up”. According to Newsclick, they said, “A clear backdrop of mistrust and anxiety was stoked amidst both communities by the ruling dispensation at the state and Centre to precipitate a full-blown civil war-like situation.”
This claim shows that the women are conspiring “to overthrow a democratically elected government by instigating people to wage war against the Government”, according to the complaint.
Apart from objecting to the fact-finding team’s claim that the violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities is a state-sponsored violence, the complainant has also taken offence to their categorisation of Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh’s decision to withdraw his resignation as “stage-managed drama”. By describing the protests, which Singh cited as the reason for reversing his decision, as such, the three women “in complete disregard of facts have abused the woman Meira Paibis of Manipur”. The Meira Paibis or “women torch bearers” are loosely organised civil society groups that march through the streets at night with flaming torches.
The Wire spoke to one of the three women, who said she got to about the FIR through various local media reports. She said has not received a copy of the FIR yet. Asked for a comment on the development, she said she could only do so after looking at the FIR.
According to Nagaland Post, the NFIW fact-finding team said on July 2 that Biren Singh, as as the elected representative of the people, was “responsible for protecting the lives of the people of the state, irrespective of communities they belonged to”.
“But he did not do it. He fails in discharging his constitutional responsibility of protecting and safeguarding life and livelihood. That is why he should take moral and political responsibility… He (chief minister) should have resigned from his post within the week after violence erupted on May 3 itself. He did not do that.”
Case against Kuki students group
In a separate development, the commisisoner of Manipur’s home department has written to the director general of police, asking for a case to be registered against the Zomi Students’ Federation and Kuki Students Organisation for publishing a booklet called ‘The Inevitable Split: Documents of State-Sponsored Ethnic Cleansing in Manipur, 2023’ on May 28.
T. Ranjit Singh, commissioner (home), government of Manipur, wrote to the DGP on July 8 to register an “FIR and take stern action” against the two organisations. The letter references a complaint filed by an advocate Thokchom Punshiba Singh and has asked the DGP to take stern action “under section 154, etc.of IPC and also to take appropriate steps to submit a detailed proposal to forfeit and issue necessary search warrants agains the book under section 95 of CrPC.”
The document, a copy of which is available with The Wire, has six chapters. They are titled as follows: Modern Manipur: A historical background, Systematic exploitation of tribals: A deep-rooted injustice, Recent precedents to the Ethnic Cleansing, Crimes Against Humanity, Reality Checks: Some False Propaganda, and, the Way Forward: Separation only solution.
Responding to the letter, the Zomi Students’ Federation issued a statement on July 9 and said it was not surprised. The statement reads, “We will not shy away from the government’s suppression of our freedom of speech and expression, which is enshrined in the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution.”