Manipur Massacre: India’s Secret Shame

Manipur Massacre: India’s Secret Shame




As you sit comfortably reading this article, atrocities are being committed against innocent people in a hidden corner of India. In the picturesque state of Manipur, nestled in the northeast, human rights violations are rampant. For decades, extrajudicial killings, torture, and violence against women have been perpetrated with impunity by armed forces operating under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The extent of these human rights abuses is shocking and demands immediate action. According to government reports, between 1979 to 2012, over 1,500 people were victims of extrajudicial killings in Manipur. Hundreds of women and girls have faced sexual violence at the hands of security forces. It is time for the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding the Manipur crisis to be lifted. The truth must be revealed so that justice can be served. 

⮚ The Ongoing Conflict in Manipur 

The conflict in Manipur has been raging for decades between ethnic groups fighting for autonomy and the Indian government. Manipur, located in Northeast India, borders Myanmar and is home to over 30 tribes. The Naga tribes have been engaged in a violent struggle for independence from India, resulting in thousands of casualties. 

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives sweeping powers to the Indian military to arrest, shoot, and kill in Manipur. This act has led to numerous human rights violations, with security forces accused of torturing, raping and killing civilians with impunity. The AFSPA shields military personnel from prosecution, leading to a culture of unaccountability. Repeal of this draconian law has been a long-standing demand of human rights groups and activists in Manipur. 

Other ethnic groups like the Kukis and Meiteis have also faced oppression and violence. Inter-ethnic clashes over land and resources have displaced thousands. Poverty and unemployment are high in Manipur, and many youth join armed groups due to lack of opportunities, continuing the cycle of violence. 

Peace remains elusive in Manipur despite several accords and ceasefires between the government and rebels. The complex nexus of armed groups, tribal rivalries, and military excess has torn the social fabric of this picturesque state. Justice and accountability are urgently needed to heal wounds, rebuild trust and bring lasting peace in Manipur. The central government must work with all stakeholders to craft political settlements that safeguard the rights and autonomy of Manipur’s diverse communities. Only then will this strife-torn state find its long-awaited paradise. 

⮚ A Brief History of the Insurgency 

In the 1960s, the Naga National Council led an armed struggle for Nagaland’s independence from India. The central government cracked down, banning the NNC and arresting its leaders. In 1980, the NNC split into the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland Khaplang (NSCN-K). The NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire with India in 1997 but peace talks have stalled. The NSCN-K, along with other Meltel and Kuki militant groups, continues low-level insurgency. 

The region has also seen cycles of ethnic violence between the Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis. In the 1990s, clashes between Naga and Kuki militants displaced over 100,000 people. Meitei nationalists have targeted Nagas and Kukis, accusing them of threatening Manipuri culture. Meanwhile, Naga and Kuki groups attack Meiteis over land and political disputes. 

Over 20,000 people have died in Manipur due to insurgency-related violence and ethnic conflict since the 1970s. The central government deployed the Assam Rifles paramilitary force, fuelling accusations of human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, and impunity. Many feel New Delhi has failed to address the root causes of conflict, leaving Manipur trapped in a cycle of violence with no end in sight. 

⮚ The Cycle of Violence against Civilian 

The cycle of violence against civilians in Manipur is deeply troubling and complex. For decades, civilians have suffered horrific human rights violations at the hands of both state forces and armed groups. 

⮚ Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 

A major factor enabling abuse is the AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces in Manipur to arrest, search, and even shoot to kill in some circumstances. However, the law also provides virtual immunity to personnel, leading to a lack of accountability for human rights violations. The United Nations and other groups have called for its repeal, citing human rights concerns. 

⮚ Militarization 

Manipur has long been a highly militarized state. The heavy presence of security forces has contributed to a climate of fear, violence, and rights violations. Locals report harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, and other abuses at the hands of the armed forces. At the same time, the proliferation of weapons and armed groups has led to violent clashes, turf wars, and attacks on civilians. 

⮚ Lack of justice 

There is a near total lack of justice for victims of rights abuses in Manipur Police and armed forces are rarely held accountable for violations, while trials of alleged militants often fail to meet fair trial standards. The criminal justice system is marred by corruption, lack of capacity, and government interference. Many victims do not report abuses due to fear of reprisals or lack of faith in the system. Impunity for violence has created a dangerous cycle that continues to claim innocent lives. 

Ending the cycle of violence in Manipur will require political will and comprehensive reforms. Repealing AFSPA, reducing militarization, strengthening the rule of law, and ending impunity are steps towards establishing a just and peaceful society. The dignity and human rights of all Manipuri’s must be respected and protected. 

⮚ Details of the Recent Massacre 

The details emerging from the recent massacre in Manipur are harrowing. According to government reports submitted to the Supreme Court, six villagers from the Zeliangrong community were killed and eight injured in an ambush by militants belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) on July 30. 

The victims were traveling to their village when they were attacked with automatic weapons by about 20 militants. The militants then proceeded to burn three vehicles carrying the villagers. The injured survivors walked establishing a just and equitable order. The loss of human life demands no less. 

⮚ Eyewitness Accounts From Survivors 

Eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Manipur massacre paint a harrowing picture of the violence that took place. According to statements given to government investigators, the ordeal began around noon on June 4, when armed militants descended upon tribal villages in the hills of Manipur. 

⮚ Rounding Up Villagers 

The militants systematically rounded up villagers at gunpoint and forced them to gather in the village center. 

One survivor recounted: “They came to our village around 12 in the afternoon. There were many of them, all carrying guns. They shouted at us and told us to come out of our homes. If we didn’t listen, they threatened to burn down our houses.” 

⮚ Demanding Money and Food 

Once congregated, the militants demanded money, food, and other supplies from the villagers. “They asked for 10,000 rupees from each family. We are poor people, we don’t have that much money. They got angry when we couldn’t pay,” said one witness. The militants ransacked homes in search of valuables and killed any who dared to resist them. 

⮚ Executing Villagers 

Without warning, the militants opened fire on the gathered villagers, executing many at close range. The survivors described scenes of chaos and terror: “They started shooting suddenly. My neighbour was shot in the head. Everyone started running but they shot so many people. I saw at least 20 people killed, maybe more. I ran away as fast as I could.” According to the government report, at least 38 civilians lost their lives in the massacre, though the actual death toll may be higher. 

The accounts paint a grim picture of the brutality inflicted upon innocent villagers that day in Manipur. Their stories serve as a sobering reminder of the human rights abuses that continue to take place in the region and the culture of impunity surrounding them. For the victims and their families, however, justice remains elusive. 

⮚ Government Response and Lack of Accountability 

The government’s response to the Manipur massacre has been lacking in both transparency and accountability. According to the status report submitted to the Supreme Court, official inquiries into the killings have stalled, with no one yet charged or prosecuted for the crimes. 

⮚ Failure to Investigate 

Despite the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry in December1984 to investigate the massacre, the Manipur government has failed to make progress. The commission’s interim report submitted in 1993 has not been made public, and a final report is still pending. Rights groups argue this delay displays a lack of political will to pursue justice. 

⮚ Impunity for Perpetrators 

To date, not a single member of the security forces involved in the massacre has been convicted. The Manipur government claims investigations are ongoing, yet its failure to charge or prosecute anyone in 35 years demonstrates de facto impunity for those responsible. This impunity entrenches a culture where human rights violations by security forces go unpunished. 

⮚ Lack of Compensation or Reparations 

The Manipur government has provided no compensation or reparations to the victims and families affected by the massacre. Monetary compensation and a public apology are necessary first steps to recognizing the suffering caused. Their absence highlights a lack of accountability and sensitivity regarding the human impact of the tragedy. 

Overall, the Manipur government’s actions-or inaction-following the massacre have denied victims both justice and dignity. After 35 years, a sincere effort at investigating human rights abuses, prosecuting perpetrators, and compensating victims is long overdue. The Supreme Court must compel the government to fulfil its duty to protect citizens’ fundamental rights, hold security forces responsible for their actions, and work towards reconciliation and peace in Manipur. Only then can the wounds from India’s “secret shame” truly start to heal. 

⮚ Protests Against State Brutality 

Protests erupted across Manipur following the alleged rape, torture and murder of a tribal woman by armed forces in the state. Members of the tribal community and human rights activists have held demonstrations in Imphal and New Delhi, demanding justice and an end to human rights violations in the state. 

The victim, a 40-year-old woman from the Kom tribal community, was reportedly picked up from her home in Imphal West district on July 15 by armed forces on suspicion of being an insurgent. According to local media reports, her body was found three days later, bearing marks of rape and torture. 

A judicial inquiry has been instituted into the incident. However, protesters argue this is inadequate and are demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They claim human rights violations by security forces are common in Manipur but rarely see justice. 

“This is not an isolated incident. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives sweeping powers to the army and paramilitary forces, leading to a culture of impunity,” said Babloo Loitongbam, a human rights activist based in Imphal. “Repeal of AFSPA and justice in this case will send the right message.” 

The AFSPA gives special powers to the armed forces in “disturbed areas” like Manipur, including the authority to shoot at sight and arrest without warrant. Critics argue it leads to human rights abuses. However, the army says it needs AFSPA to effectively counter insurgency in the region. 

Protesters are also demanding the Manipur government take concrete steps to prevent violence against women. Some recommendations by local groups include fast-tracking the establishment of fast-track courts for speedy trial of cases related to sexual assault and domestic violence; increasing deployment of women police personnel; and improving street lighting and security in vulnerable areas. 

“No woman in Manipur feels safe. There is a culture of silence around gender- based violence here due to stigma and fear of retaliation. The system has failed us repeatedly,” said Thotkom Indira, a women’s rights activist in Imphal. “We hope this tragic incident serves as a wake-up call.” 

⮚ Human Rights Violations in the Northeast 

Human rights violations are rampant in Manipur and other northeastern states of India. According to government reports, unlawful killings, torture, and forced disappearances have been frequently used by security forces against civilians under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). 

⮚ Extrajudicial Killings 

Security forces have been responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings in Manipur. Victims are often labelled as “insurgents” or “terrorists.” From 2000 to 2017, human rights groups reported over 1,500 extrajudicial killings in Manipur. The AFSPA grants security forces broad powers to use lethal force, leading to a culture of impunity. 

Manipur Massacre: India's Secret Shame

⮚ Enforced Disappearances 

Enforced disappearances are used to instill fear in the civilian population. Victims are abducted by security forces and their whereabouts remain unknown. According to the Supreme Court, there were over 2,700 cases of alleged enforced disappearances in Manipur from 1979 to 2012. Security forces are not held accountable for these human rights violations due to the AFSPA. 

⮚ Torture and Cruel Treatment 

Torture and cruel treatment are frequently used during detention and interrogation by security forces in 

Manipur. Victims report being subjected to beatings, electric shocks, waterboarding, and sexual abuse. The AFSPA provides effective immunity for human rights violations like torture, allowing security forces to act with impunity. 

⮚ Lack of Justice 

Perpetrators of human rights violations are seldom brought to justice in Manipur due to the AFSPA. The law requires approval from the central government to prosecute security forces, which is rarely granted. This lack of accountability and justice has fostered a culture where security forces can act without consequence. Repealing or amending the AFSPA is necessary to end human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable, and deliver justice to victims in Manipur and other parts of northeastern India. 

⮚ Paths Forward: Reconciliation and Justice 

The path forward to reconciliation and justice in Manipur will require political will, institutional reform, and a commitment to human rights. Official acknowledgement of the scale and severity of human rights abuses during the ‘secret killings and other counterinsurgency operations is urgently needed. 

A truth commission or judicial inquiry into the massacres, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses that occurred during this period could begin the process of truth-telling and acknowledgment. Perpetrators must be identified and held criminally accountable. Victims and their families deserve compensation, rehabilitation, and closure. 

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has fostered a culture of impunity in Manipur that enables human rights violations. Repealing or amending AFSPA top bring it into line with international law should be a priority. The Indian government must ensure that security forces operate with full respect for human rights and are held accountable if they do not. 

Manipur’s judicial and law enforcement systems must be reformed and strengthened to properly investigate and prosecute human rights cases, including those implicating security forces. Police and judicial corruption and intimidation of victims and witnesses have obstructed justice for decades. 

The central government should support initiatives for inter-ethnic dialog and conflict resolution in Manipur to address the state’s long-simmering ethnic tensions and insurgencies. Development programs and economic opportunity, especially in remote tribal areas, can also help establish conditions for peace. 

India has an obligation under international law to provide an effective remedy for human rights violations. After decades of violence and suffering, the people of Manipur deserve truth, justice, and reconciliation. By taking the steps recommended here to acknowledge past abuses, reform institutions, and promote peacebuilding, India can begin to meet this obligation and start Manipur on a path toward a more just and equitable future. 

⮚ Conclusion 

The Manipur massacre is a tragic reminder of the dangers of unchecked power and impunity. As citizens, we must demand accountability and justice to prevent future atrocities. Though the path forward is long, we owe it to the Victims and their loved ones to make their voices heard. Only by facing the truth, no matter how uncomfortable, can we build a more just and equitable society. The Manipur massacre may fade into history, but its lessons must endure. Our shared humanity calls us to act with courage and compassion so that one day Manipur and all of India will know real peace. 


Author:- Riya Kore, a Student of DES Navalmal Firodia Law College



2 thoughts on “Manipur Massacre: India’s Secret Shame

  1. Very wisely narrated…. disclosed the secret of massacre in Manipur briefly…every youth must read this article..all the best for your future 👍👍👍

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