PUCL Demands Scrapping of FIR Against Fact-Finding Team That Visited Violence-Hit Manipur

Annie Raja and Nisha Siddhu of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and advocate Deeksha Dwivedi visited Manipur to understand the situation on the ground. They have now been charged with sedition and under other sections.

New Delhi: The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned Manipur Police for registering an FIR (first information report) against a three-member team which recently conducted a fact-finding inquiry by visiting various parts of the violence-hit state to understand the situation on the ground.

The fact-finding inquiry was conducted by Annie Raja and Nisha Siddhu of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and advocate Deeksha Dwivedi. They have now been charged with Sections 121- A (conspiring to commit offences of waging war against India or against the state), 124A (sedition), 153/153-A/ 153-B (provocation with an intention to cause riot, promoting enmity between different groups and imputations prejudicial to national integration), 499 (defamation), 504 & 505(2) (insult to provoke breach of peace, false statement, rumour etc with intention to create enmity between different classes), and section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

After concluding their visit to various parts of the state, they addressed a press conference in Imphal on Saturday, July 8, where they described the crisis in the state as a “state-sponsored violence”.

They have also been prosecuted for describing the protest of the Meira Paibis (women belonging to the majority Meitei Hindu community) against the resignation of Manipur chief minister, N. Biren Singh, as “stage-managed drama”.

“The PUCL sees the registration of this frivolous FIR by Manipur Police on July 8, as an atrocious, malicious, and unconscionable abuse of power by the police. The Police are using the law as an instrument of terror to frighten and intimidate citizens who seek to find out the truth through personal visits to conflict areas, meeting various stakeholders and parties involved and placing their findings in the public domain for discussion,” PUCL in a statement said.

The rights’ organisation also expressed its “deepest concern” over a criminal complaint filed before the Imphal CJM Court against Prof Kham Khan Suan Hausing, Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad, for giving an interview to The Wire. 

“Such acts of criminalising widely accepted human rights tools like Fact finding enquiries, publishing FF reports, writing articles, holding press conferences, giving interviews to the media and so on clearly constitute a violation of Indian people’s constitutionally protected fundamental right of (1) the freedom of speech and expression (which includes the right to question the government, dissent and seek accountability) (2) freedom of movement (to move around anywhere in India), (3) freedom of Assembly and other rights,” PUCL said.

It has also called on the Union government to issue advisories to all states and police against such “acts of criminalising people when doing human rights work, academic writing and similar activities”.