[Reader-list] Fwd: Fwd: On the arrest and torture of Indigenous Activist Jiten Yumnam

anupam chakravartty c.anupam at gmail.com
Mon Sep 21 12:16:16 IST 2009

Dear all,

Here's a letter posted by Yumnam recently on a mailing list.

"Dear Friends,

Please find a brief write up (for local media) below based on a recent
attempt of 14th Assam Rifles, a paramilitary group operating under the
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 applied the customary laws of
the Kuki people of Manipur to deliver justice (or injustice) after
extra judicial executing three Kuki women at Saitu Village under
Senapati District of Manipur in India's North East. While skirting all
existing human rights norms for a prompt and impartial investigation
into cases of extrajudicial executions involving armed forces, the
Assam Rifles negotiated with village chiefs of Saitu region to resolve
the issue with provision of money, clothes, necklace and pigs for the
bereaved families. The customary laws has been applied for easy
escapism from injustice and where customary laws and traditional
institutions are deemed to be applied in other circumstances, for
instances, introduction of mega developmental projects, the same
institutions and structures and relevant norms are flouted.

Would be glad to receive your comments and suggestion to deal with
such situations.

In Solidarity,

Jiten Yumnam

Imphal, Manipur

Flirting Customary Laws in Manipur

 Jiten  Yumnam, Imphal, Manipur

 The armed conflict situation in Manipur in India’s North East, a
theatre of confrontation between indigenous armed opposition groups
with demands varying from complete secession to autonomy under the
Indian Constitution with the Indian political entity, represented by
its Armed Forces and other law enforcing agencies, empowered by a
range of special legislations, viz: Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,
1958, National Security Act, 1980, Unlawful Activities and Prevention
Act, Seditious Meetings Act, 1911 etc., churned out interesting and
slanting realities, that will provide us valuable answers on how a
climate of impunity has been consolidated and how the arbitration of
principles and standards of justice, universally accepted and its
delivery process has been rigidified.

The persistence of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions
remains grim in areas of armed conflict. Violation of the right to
life, supreme and non-derogable, is perpetuated in countries where the
democratic system does not exist or where it is in its infancy. Poor
governance makes Governments dependent on security forces to control
the crime rate or other forms of violence, or even dissent through
violent means, which invariably raises the risk of extra judicial
executions. Persecution of personnel of the armed forces of India
involved in misusing the special powers and immunity conferred to them
subjecting indigenous peoples of the state to excessive human rights
violations, rape, torture, extra judicial execution remains a long
standing and a much contentious issue. The contention revolves around
the non-derogable and non-negotiable issue of delivering ‘justice’ to
peoples whose dignity, physical, mental and spiritual integrity both
at the individual and collective level are infringed and trampled
with. ‘Justice’ is the foundation of democracy, and constitutes the
central ideal and guiding philosophy of functioning of states and
nations all over. Denial of justice in any system would tantamount to
reinforcement of the practices of barbarism, bereft of all values of
humanism. History is evidence that nations and system disregarding the
issue of justice, central to civilization and humanism, is bound to
fall sooner or later. The issue assumes more significance as it is
discussed in a conflict torn region like Manipur, where armed groups
have ruled to the roost from the ‘barrels of the gun’, within an
assortment of specialties.

Recent cases of armed forces involvement in extrajudicial executions
had seen an unprecedented invocation of customary laws and traditions
of several indigenous communities of Manipur notwithstanding the
existence of national and international human rights standards for
upholding the dignity and integrity of peoples. Where imbalance of
power relationships exists between state entities and the indigenous
peoples, invocation of customary laws and traditions for justice
delivery to injustices perpetrated to indigenous peoples cans itself
constitute reinforcing injustice and an abject disregard of dignity of
the people and the community.

For instance, the 14th Assam Rifles based at Lairou, Senapati
District, Manipur negotiated with Kuki Village chiefs of Saitu area on
evening of 5th May 2005 to tender an apology, to provide money, pigs,
clothes and a necklace for two women and a baby, killed by personnel
of the 14th Assam Rifles at Saitu Village under Sapermeina Police
Station, Manipur on 5th May 2005. In yet another similar incident, a
memorandum of understanding was signed between 28th Assam Rifles and
Kom Rem Union, Manipur on 19 December 2004, deciding to withdraw an
FIR lodged with the Bishnupur PS and to urge upon the Government of
Manipur to close the Bungte Chiru Inquiry Commission, that inquires
the facts and the circumstances leading to the extra judicial
execution of LD Rengtuiwan, gunned down by personnel of 28th Assam
Rifles on 16 November, 2004 at Bungte Chiru, Bishnupur District of
Manipur. The Assam Rifles, under the agreement, presented a pig, a
traditional Chiru shawl and a sword to the Victims’family during a
ceremony. The agreement had sparked a controversy with the Inquiry
Commission, initially refusing to accept Kom Rem Union’s application
to withdraw the Inquiry.

The negotiations for the previous case at Saitu, in accordance with
the Kuki customary traditions and institutions are amidst contrasting
claims of villagers and the PIB (Defence Wing). According to
villagers, six troopers of 14th Assam Rifles who came in civil dress
came at Saitu Village, where the villagers were preparing to hold a
meeting to elect the representatives to the Saitu -Namphajol Village
Organization around 11:30 in the morning, opened fired blankly and
dispersed the gathering villagers. The Assam Rifles troopers then
going up the Saitu hillock fired indiscriminately, killing the two
women who were attending domestic chores at the upper side of the
hillock. Nemtingmeng Haokip (30), wife of Doukhomang, resident of the
same village, who witnessed the sordid killings said one of the AR men
reached the spot where the women were taking cover inside a dry ditch
over grown with grass and told him that they are villagers. Ms.
Zhingkhoneng Haokip with her one-year-old child, Hoineichang Haokip
were fired upon by the trooper and killed when she called out her
husband for help and the other woman killed was Lamneithem Haokip
(25). Meanwhile, a Press Information Bureau (Defence Wing) Press
release of 6 May 2005 stated that troopers of 14 Assam Rifles launched
an operation in the fringes of Saitu village, Senapati district to
round up underground activists in the area and that they were fired
upon by the underground activist, who later fled towards the jungle
causing civilian casualties. The release continued the IG (Assam
Rifles), M. General BS Ghora has ordered a high level inquiry into the

The payments etc and the invocation of the Kuki Customary Laws brings
into urgency the need to define the entire meaning of justice and to
reconsider the sincerity and the consistency of the state attitude
towards indigenous peoples and their customary traditions and
institutions. Because whilst the customary laws has been invoked for
delivery justice in the case of violations involving civil and
political rights violations, the same institutions and structures are
being disregarded in other state approaches, for instances in
introducing mega developmental projects, where their land and
resources are forcibly acquired and social, cultural and environmental
impact assessments and subsequent public consultation process to be
carried out through these institutions are flouted. Consistent appeals
for recognizing the traditional institutions and the process in taking
decisions in undertaking such projects are disregarded. The invocation
of customary law has also been selective and exclusionary and where
customary laws best safeguarding easy escapism seems to be adopted to
its best of practices. Going by customary practices, it would be
interesting had the Meitei people’s tradition, Ngabongkhoaoda Namduna
Turelda Thadaba is invoked, whereby a murderer is punished by death by
drowning, the practice being - the offenders being tied in a sack and
thrown into a river at places where another river meets. The pattern
of inconsistency in application of customary laws represents directing
a mockery of the traditional institutions and destroying the sanctity
of the customary laws and traditions.

The issue of prosecuting the involved Assam Rifles personnel has not
been addressed meaningfully and in accordance with due process of
justice delivery, universally upheld, in the entire negotiations of
Assam Rifles and the Village Chiefs. While respecting the regulations
of customary practices, the need to prosecute the involved personnel
and providing justice to the people should be taken seriously. The
people are fully sensitive to forbidding outcomes of high level
inquiries announced by Army authorities previously and will have
little, if any, confidence and trust with the inquiry that the IG
(Assam Rifles) major general BS Ghora has ordered in connection with
the Saitu firing Extra-Judicial execution case. The Assam Rifles
Inquiry constituted shortly after the rape and murder of Ms. Thangjam
Manorama, a young woman by personnel of 17th Assam Rifles on 11 July
2004 involves contradictory statements by high ranking army officials
and still people of Manipur had to find answers if the Assam Rifles
Inquiry commission is over and as to whether their personnel involved
in the murder were ever prosecuted. And in fact, the findings of the
Manorama Inquiry Commission, constituted under the Commission of
Inquiry Act, 1952, are never made public and as such, the government
still failed to implement the recommendations, if ever made, to
prosecute the personnel involved in the gruesome rape and murder.

The Armed Forces, whose firm principle is upholding justice at all
levels are obliged to respect the principles of justice and
institutions providing justice remedies. Searching for easy escapism
for barbaric acts and creating hurdles in slightest process in seeking
out truth for effective justice delivery to peoples whose heart and
souls are shattered with their brutal perpetration of injustice and
barbarism cannot be construed as upholding the principles and spirit
of democracy but rather destroying its vital essence. The efforts of
the 17th Assam Rifles and the 28th Assam Rifles challenging the
legality of the Ms. Thangjam Manorama Death Inquiry Commission and the
Bungte Chiru Death Inquiry both in 2004 and headed by Retired Justice
C. Upendro on contentions that the State Government of Manipur has no
jurisdiction to inquire into the conduct of the personnel belonging to
the Armed Forces of the Union of India, who are acting by exercising
the power conferred under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958,
cannot be considered again as promoting this universal principle of

Reasons are rife for grave concerns that impunity for serious human
rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, has become
systematic and institutionalized in several countries worldwide
including India. Prevalence of impunity with widespread and systematic
killings would amount to crimes against humanity. A sustainable, just
and stable peace could only be achieved if those responsible for
ordering and carrying out grave human rights violations were
apprehended and held accountable for their crimes in trials that
conform to international human rights standards and to the highest
standards of impartiality, competence, objectivity and independence of
the judiciary in protecting the lives and security of innocent
civilians. This is particularly important in situations where impunity
is the direct product of laws explicitly exempting public officials,
parliamentarians or certain categories of State agents from
accountability or prosecution for grave human rights abuses. In order
to overcome impunity, the government need to show both political will
and moral courage to confront human rights abuses by ensuring that
strong, independent and effective institutions and mechanisms are in
place to bring perpetrators to justice.

The Government of India has an obligations, as a country aspiring to
become the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council
with a veto power to abide by the principles and the standards of the
United Nations established to protect the life, security and human
dignity of all peoples. And such, the government should conduct an
exhaustive and impartial investigations into the Saitu Firing Case,
the Bungte Chiru Case and other extrajudicial executions to prosecute
the armed forces personnel involved in the crimes towards ending
impunity in Manipur, in accordance with the provisions of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to
life, liberty and security of person, the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Declaration of Basic Principles of
Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 and the  UN
Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of
Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, 1989.

Repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 as demanded by
the people of Manipur and recommended by the United Nations Human
Rights Committee, in its consideration of the Third Periodic Report of
India to ICCPR will contribute enormously in securing peace in
Manipur. And in fact, flirting with the indigenous peoples’ traditions
and customary laws of Manipur cannot be a good answer to sooth their
feelings hurt and console their cries for justice and yearnings for


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sanjay Kak <kaksanjay at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 11:54 AM
Subject: Re: [Reader-list] Fwd: On the arrest and torture of
Indigenous Activist Jiten Yumnam
To: Danny Butt <db at dannybutt.net>
Cc: Sarai Reader-list <reader-list at sarai.net>

The news on Jiten Yumnam is not good — he has already been subjected
to torture (see the story below) and it seems his court hearing has
been posted for Sep 29th. Manipur's security apparatus is one to be
feared, perhaps more so than what even Kashmir experiences.

I would recommend that everyone put whatever kind of pressure they can
to secure an early release for Jiten Yumnam


Sanjay Kak


Another shocker from Manipur

Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times
Guwahati, September 21, 2009

A Manipur Police commando team had on September 14 picked up green
activist Jiten Yumnam from the Imphal airport before he could board a
flight to Delhi en route to Bangkok to attend a UN meet on climate

A day later, he had to undergo treatment at Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital
in Imphal. The medical report, accessed by HT, makes it apparent
Yumnan was tortured in custody.
“General weakness – 1 day, pain private parts after electric shock,”
reads the report.

Yumnam and the others were booked under the Official Secrets Act and
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They were scheduled to be
produced before the court on 29 September.
Yumnam was one of the eight members of the All Manipur United Clubs
Organisation that had been upping the ante against the Okram Ibobi
Singh government after a series of “fake encounters”.

He also happens to be one of the strongest voices against the
controversial Tipaimukh Dam that Bangladesh is also opposed to.
Environmentalists have been opposing construction of the 1500 MW
Tipaimukh hydro-electric project on Barak and Tuivai rivers saying it
would displace tens of thousands of villagers and submerge
agricultural and forest land.

“Yumnam has been motivating youth to engage in constructive dialogues
with governments in the backdrop of development aggression and extreme
forms of militarisation... (in) Northeast,” said a spokesperson of
Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth Network.

Kohima-based environment rights activist Mmhonlümo Kikon said the
police were waiting for Yumnam to move out of Imphal so that they
could legitimise arrest and imply he was trying to flee.

SSP Imphal West district L Kailun told HT, “I’ve not seen the medical
report.If such a thing has occurred, I will definitely look into

On Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 8:16 AM, Danny Butt <db at dannybutt.net> wrote:
> Greetings all
> Does anyone on the list know anything about this issue? I've just
> received the forward.
> Cheers
> Danny
> -----------------
> September 16, 2009
> [ Recipient list below, petition and original at http://apiyn.org/home/?p=216
>  ]
> Sir / Ma’am,
> Jiten Yumnam, member of the Coordinating Committee of the Asia Pacific
> Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN), was arrested at Imphal Airport
> around 12:30 pm (India standard time). On the same day, at around 3:00
> pm, seven identified executives of the All Manipur United Club
> Organization (AMUCO) were also arrested after a combined team of
> Singjamei Police and Imphal West Police Commandos raided their office.
> The seven executives were Sungchen Koireng, Likmabam Tompok, A. Soken,
> Irom Brojen, Toarem Ramanda, G. Sharat Kabui and Thiyam Dinesh.
> Reports stated that an FIR case has been registered against the eight
> arrested men (including Jiten Yumnam) and booked under Section 121/121-
> A of Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 16/18/39 of Unlawful Activities
> (Prevention) Act and Section O of the Official Secret Act. Section
> 121/121-A of the IPC deals with “attempting to wage war” and
> “conspiring to commit offences against the state”. Sections 16/18/39
> of UA(P) deal with “unlawful acts of supporting or motivating” of what
> the State considers as “insurgents”.
> Aside from being a founding member of the APIYN, Jiten Yumnam is also
> the Joint-Secretary of Citizens' Concerns on Dam and Development
> (CCDD) that had been vocal and active in motivating youth engagement
> in constructive dialogues with Governments in the background of
> development aggression and militarization in North East India. Jiten
> Yumnam has also demonstrated great wisdom and boldness while raising
> public awareness against construction of Big Dams, besides his in-
> depth knowledge of the way International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
> design and fund mega projects in the name of climate change
> mitigation. Jiten Yumnam, by the time of his arrest, was actually on
> his way to Bangkok for another international meeting on the United
> Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and shall
> proceed to New Zealand for the Indigenous Climate Connections (ICC)
> afterwards.
> Jiten Yumnam also worked dedicatedly to raise awareness of the youth
> and the people by being a field reporter of Imphal Free Press and as
> freelance writer in Manipur Mail, The Sangai Express and the Imphal
> Free Press. He also published several materials that shook  the
> Government like the "Insidious Intrusion of International Financial
> Institutions in India's North East" (2008);  "Militarization and human
> rights violations in Manipur" (December 2006) published by Asian Human
> Rights Commission in Hong Kong; “Mapithel Dam amidst Militaristic
> Development in Manipur” published in The Sangai Express last 14
> December 2008; “Damned Hearings of Tipaimukh High Dam in Manipur”
> published in New Nation, Bangladesh last May 5, 2008; and “Development
> Aggression: Imphal Airport and University Expansion” published in the
> Imphal Free Press  (March 15, 2008).
> We express grave concern for the arrest of indigenous youth activist
> Jiten Yumnam and the AMUCO officials. The arrests last September 14
> are not isolated cases, but actually part of the Government’s efforts
> to repress and oppress criticisms from its concern people. India is
> known to have used undemocratic Federal and State legislations to
> charge activists in attempts to immobilize processes that embarrass
> Governments.
> We also express serious alarm over the impunity with which citizens of
> that region are subjected to. These unjustifiable acts should end now.
> We demand that Police and law enforcement elements take the issue with
> utmost seriousness. APIYN and the world’s indigenous peoples, with
> concerned international agencies, state our abhorrence to the
> increasing cases of human rights violations in Manipur and demand the
> Government of India to ensure that its federal unit in Manipur:
> 1.    Ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Jiten
> Yumnam and the AMUCO officials, and provide safety and return to their
> family and work;
> 2.    Ensure that they shall be given the opportunity to speak and
> defend themselves in due process;
> 3.    Retract from the policy of “cutting-off” activists individually
> and systematically;
> 4.    Stop any form of repression and oppression to indigenous peoples
> activists and shall always use democratic spaces in resolving issues
> and concerns to the people of India;
> 5.    Stop state violence to its people.
> Chief Minister & Home Minister of Manipur,
> Chief Minister's secretariat Babupara,
> Imphal 795001 Manipur INDIA,
> Tel: +91 385 2221833, 2220137 (O); 2220136, 2222683 (R)
> Fax: + 91 385 2221817,
> Email: cmmani at hub.nic. in
> Pratibha Patil Devi,
> President, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhawan,
> New Delhi, 110004 INDIA Tel: +91 11 3016767 (Joint Secretary),
> 3014507 (Personal Secretary),  Fax: +91 11 3017290,
> 3014570
> E-mail: presssecy at alpha.nic.in  or  Pressecy at Sansad.nic.in
> Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
> Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
> New Delhi-110001 INDIA
> Tel: +91 11 23074448, Fax: +91 11 2334
> 0016E-mail: mailto:  chairnhrc at nic. in
> Mr. Chidambaram , Hon'ble  Ministry of Home Affairs,
> Griha Mantralaya Room
> No. 104, North Block Central Secretariat, New Delhi 110001
> INDIA  Fax: +91 11 2301 5750, 2309 3750, 2309 2763
> Email:  websitemhaweb at mha.nic.in
> Chairperson Manipur State Human Rights
> Commission Room No. VIP-II, State Guest House
> Sanjenthong, Imphal-795001 Manipur
> INDIA Tel: +91 385 2410473 (O) / 2447438
> (R),  Telefax: +91 385
> 2410472E-mail: mhrc at man.nic. in
> --------------------
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