New Delhi: “The measure of the state’s success is that the word anarchy frightens people, while the word state does not.”
This famous quote by well-known American journalist Joseph Sobran, posted by Thounaojam Brinda on her Facebook page on May 1, is perhaps a barometer of how she perceives the state machinery and its treatment of her over the past three years. Rather, how that machinery allegedly mistreated her for the past three years.
Brinda is a deputy superintendent of police with 9 ARB Mahilla Battalion (an all-women battalion), waiting to hear from the Manipur police on her resignation, submitted to the state director general of police, L.M. Khoute, on January 26.
“Till date, there is no official communication on my resignation letter,” says Brinda in an email interview from her hometown, Imphal.
The decision to resign from the post, she tells The Wire, “was a foregone conclusion that was bound to come sooner or later.”
The circumstances that led to the inevitability Brinda refers to have been somewhat extraordinary for Manipur. As per local media reports, she is the first ranking police officer in the state to have resigned from service.
Although her letter cited “personal” reasons, on March 15, at a press meet in Imphal, she said, “I was always looked at with suspicion in the department since I am the daughter-in-law of R.K. Meghen, the former chairman of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) insurgent group.”
A postgraduate in International Relations from Jadavpur University, Raj Kumar Meghen (also known as Sanayaima) is the great grandson of Manipuri king Tikendrajit Singh, who led the army of the Manipur kingdom in the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891. The UNLF was founded in 1964 to establish a sovereign and socialist Manipur. But the India government declared it a banned armed insurgent group, which forced its leaders go underground.
According to news reports quoting National Investigation Agency sources, Meghen was taken into custody from Bihar’s East Champaran district in the first week of December 2010. However, the word was out in September that year that the militant leader had been handed over by Bangladesh to India. In a letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the late Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan demanded Meghen’s whereabouts be made public and that “the due process of law” be followed.
Meghen’s wife too wrote a letter to the prime minister citing the family’s right to know his whereabouts since September 29, the date he was believed to have been taken into custody.
Till then, Brinda had never met her father-in-law. Her husband R.K. Chinglen had no memory of his father as he was barely six-days-old when Meghen left home to go underground.
On the ground that Meghen be produced to go through a fair trial as per the Constitution, Brinda took part in the protests. She may have only appeared in the Manipur State Public Service Commission examination two years after those protests, but her participation in the protest appears to have been the source of her problems with the state. Even though her name was in the list of successful candidates, she never received an appointment letter. In January 2013, she filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking redress.
“I sought redressal for violation of my Constitutional rights with regard to the denial of my appointment to the state police service by the government without giving any official reason after I was issued the offer form,” says Brinda. But the court directed Brinda to the Gauhati high court.
The government’s post-facto written explanation to the high court “branded me as a sympathiser of UNLF and as being close to my father-in-law. It said my being in the Police would make it vulnerable to the designs of the UNLF. The justification given was that I took part in the protests that took place when my father-in-law disappeared for 61 days from Dhaka in 2010. It failed to see that the demand was to produce him in a court of law and subject him to a fair trial as per the Constitution,” Brinda recalls.
The high court, however, directed the government to appoint her since she had already been selected. She joined the Mahilla Battalion in April 2013.
“Thereafter began my harassment at the work place. Police is an organisation whose unity and brotherhood have been founded upon trust. But that natural trust factor was never there for me because of my father-in-law being the then chairman of a rebel group. How can I work in an environment where there is distrust, where people suspect me and the trust factor becomes a constant issue,” she asks.
Although joining the civil service was her first choice, on given the police service, “I went ahead with it because I had a firmed belief that I could improve the police-public relationship,” Brinda says.
Soon after receiving her resignation, the state government formed an inquiry committee to look into the matter. The committee summoned her thrice but she refused to appear before it. “This committee includes people who hounded me. It is not neutral. I have no hope of getting justice from it,” she says.
There has also been an insinuation in a section of the local media that her resignation followed the sensational confession by head constable Thounaojam Herojit of killing an unarmed former militant, Chungkham Sanjit Meitei, in a fake encounter on the orders of a superior police officer in 2009. Herojit is a distant relative of Brinda and he reportedly confessed the crime to her before going public on January 24. The CBI, on investigating the case, named Herojit along with eight others in the chargesheet. “Anyone can say anything and pass a thousand different opinions from the same mouth on a same issue,” she says in reaction.
In her resignation letter, she wrote, “If I maybe of service to the State and the Constitution in the future, I am still requesting its violators to abide by and uphold it if we truly want a vibrant Manipur and a more colorful and vibrant India.”
For now, Brinda is busy “writing a memoir.”