Framing ‘fearless’ commandos
REGARDLESS of the slight delay in complying with the Supreme Court order for investigation and registration of FIRs into allegations of fake encounter killings that took place in the state in the initial stage, the CBI submitting a series of reports and accusing security forces of questionable conduct suggests that the probe process is gathering pace. With the fourth charge sheet submitted before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on Thursday holding four commando personnel accountable for the death of one Laishram Ranbir Singh of Uchiwa Awang Leikai, a contractor by profession, the number of security personnel who would be facing trial for their dubious conduct has gone up to 20. In its latest charge sheet, the CBI expressing suspicion that lust of easy money might have led to the premature death of Ranbir should prod the conscience of those men in uniform who did not hesitate to spray bullets when their target could have been either overpowered or immobilised and taken to the court of law. The CBI observation on greed of money for possible elimination of Ranbir also brings back memories of those days when law and order was most unstable in the state. For instance, people, menfolk in particular, felt highly insecure to move out of homes in case they are in possession of some sizeable amount of cash. One used to be subjected to intense, irrational and intimidating interrogations if at all commandos on frisking duties detect possession of cash. In case of any transaction entailing substantial exchange of money then one made it a point to take along few women and local elders as proof that the cash is for legal purpose.
By ordering investigation into allegation of fake encounter killings, the apex court made it clear that charges levelled against security forces cannot be taken lightly, it is pained by circumstances prevailing in Manipur and gravely concerned over near-total absence of any inquiry into public grievances. It has acknowledged that additional powers have been given to the armed forces to deal with terrorism effectively. However, it also made clear that this cannot be an excuse for extrajudicial killings — and whenever such allegations surface, they have to be investigated, regardless of whether the person concerned is a dreaded criminal, terrorist or insurgent. Interestingly, only one officer of a para-military unit is among the accused persons. As conduct of counter-insurgency operations by joint teams comprising local police and central forces used to be the norm during the heydays of militancy in the state, the CBI findings, so far, give the impression that the police commandos were more inconsiderate in their conduct and action compared to their colleagues from the central forces. While there is no certainty on whether or not further investigation by the CBI will frame more central security personnel, the fact remains that hands of many central forces will be indelibly stained with blood of innocent lives for massacre of civilians in the infamous Malom, Heirangoithong and the erstwhile RMC incidents, to name a few. Though findings of the on-going probe, at the insistence of the Supreme Court, will never bring back the precious lives lost, it is hoped that the bereaved families will feel emancipated as and when the accused security personnel face the music.