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Court paves way in Manorama case
Correspondent IMPHAL, SEPt 5:
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Published on 6 Sep. 2010 12:22 AM IST
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Manipur government could initiate appropriate action against the 17 Assam Rifles personnel involved in the murder of Thangjam Manorama six years ago on May 11, 2004, whose body was discovered with tell-tale signs of having been raped before being shot to death.
The state government’s option comes in the wake of the ruling by the Gauhati High Court pronounced on August 31, wherein it was asked to open the report submitted by the inquiry commission constituted by the state regarding the alleged custodial death of Th. Manorama Devi.
The state government had not made any headway in the case as it could not take action against a central force which refused to respond to court summons to its personnel.
Due to legal complications, the state could not act on the report submitted by the inquiry commission headed by C. Upendro, retired district and session judge Manipur, which recommended action against the erring Assam Rifles personnel. Challenging the Assam Rifles’ stand and backed by the union home ministry, Manipur government and the victim’s mother filed a joint petition to the Gauhati High Court in June 2005 praying for allowing opening the inquiry report.
The final hearing of the case was held on May 11, 12 and 13 last, in which the judgment was kept reserved till it was pronounced on August 31, said advocate Meihoubam Rakesh, the counsel of the victim’s mother Th. Khumanleima.
The judgment allows the state government to open the report of the inquiry commission and implement the recommendations made by the commission into action, Rakesh said today.
It may be recalled, that the bullet-riddled body of Manorama Devi was found in a field outside Imphal after she was arrested on the night of July 11, 2004 by Assam Rifles personnel. The Assam Rifles had charged her of being a hardcore cadre of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and claimed, she was shot while trying to run away after she was asked to lead the patrol to a suspect.
Manorama’s body was found with scratch marks from fingers all over her body, a deep gashing knife wound on her right thigh, bruises on her breasts, deep cut marks on her inner thighs, and genitals, and several bullet wounds.
The autopsy of Manorama’s body was conducted at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital (RIMS) after the Irilbung police picked up the body. The autopsy was performed before family members were able to identify the body and the results of the report were not released to the public. Family members had refused to take back Manorama’s body on the ground that it was a case of murder and demanded a probe. Later, the government authority disposed off the body in a public crematorium at Imphal.
The state witnessed widespread protests lasting around three months, while people took to the streets demanding revocation of the AFSPA Act alleging that it gave unbridled powers to the armed forces.
Venting their bottled up rage women in an act of self humiliation, stripped naked in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters and taunted: “rape us, kill us, take our flesh” while attempting to break through the AR headquarters gate. Indefinite curfew was clamped at Imphal and its surrounding areas but there was no let up in mass protests. It was only after the government ordered a judicial probe that protests subsided.
However, the government could not proceed further since the Armed Forces (Special Powers)Act insulated armed forces personnel from trial in civil courts. The AR ordered a court martial and four involved were kept in confinement. Requests by the Assam Rifles for civilian witnesses (family of Manorama Devi) to depose before it, drew a blank.

 
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