By Niharika Singh:
Thangjam Manorama Devi was killed by the 17th Assam Rifles, on 11 July 2004. She was a suspected People’s Liberation Army’s cadre and was allegedly in possession of a hand grenade. She was arrested without the presence of a lady constable. According to the paramilitary forces, she was shot while trying to flee (unarmed). The shots were fired from a close range, her genitals were shot at and the forensics have stated that there were semen stains on her skirt, suggesting that she was raped. No blood stains or cartridge shells were found in the area where Manorama was chased and shot, suggesting she was killed somewhere else and her body dumped. (Source)
It may seem like an open and shut case to a layman with a farcical story concocted around it, but when you realize that it happened in Manipur, one of the heavily militarized zones of our country, our outlook is biased towards the army personals, our ‘protectors’. Manipur is a state in the northeast which we have very conveniently ostracized. Democracy doesn’t effectively function there. State brutality and military occupation under the shroud of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has called on a counter-insurgency war on humanity.
The Supreme Court passed a verdict on Manorama’s case after about 10 years, stating that it was a fake encounter and directed the government to pay Rs. 10 lakh to Manorama’s mother as compensation. It’s a small price to pay for someone’s life, and the impunity of the armed forces. The whole debate of diluting AFSPA to make it more human or repeal it completely was lost.
Against national security and the jingoistic ideals of honour of the army, justice loses its battle in the so called ‘disturbed areas’. AFSPA constitutionally requires to be reviewed every 6 months, yet has stayed for decades now. Since its enactment, militant groups have seen a massive proliferation as they provide a platform to fight state criminality.
Women always have to bear the brunt of social injustices, in marginalized societies and in conflict zones. Can you imagine being a part of the society which leaves the perpetrators of such a heinous brutality go scot free? While we live in our comfortable bubble of democracy, our security forces make this very democracy difficult to digest for some.