IN-FOCUS: Human rights defender arrested in Manipur (India)

IN-FOCUS: Human rights defender arrested in Manipur (India)

Amnesty International Imphal Group

[To read this posting in Hindi language, click here]


Name: Sapam Kangleipal Meitei (27 years)

(Also known as Sapamcha Kangleipal)

Father's Name: Sapam Shyamsunder Meetei

Address: Nongada Thongkhong, Imphal East, under the Lamlai Police Station, Manipur

Occupation: Social Activist, President of Manipur Forward Youth Front (MAFYF)

Date of incident: 7 May 2008

Place of incident: Manipur Press Club, Imphal

Perpetrators: Manipur police of Imphal police station and Manipur police of City police, Imphal along with Manipur police commandos

Fact of the case:

A team of Manipur Police had arrested Mr Sapamcha Kangleipal Meetei, a key human rights defender and forerunner youth leader of Manipur (India) for organising a public discussion on the Arming the Civilians and Its Possible Consequences (in Manipur) and making statements regarding the above issue reportedly demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister of Manipur in response to the failure of governance.

The youth leader was picked up from the Manipur Press Club on 7 May 2008 on charge of sedition against Government shortly after the public discussion.

The police team reportedly led by Mr. Munan and Mr. Khomdon, officer-in-charges of City Police and Imphal Police Station (West) respectively and forced to switch off the live telecast of the public discussion through a local cable TV network (ISTV).

The police team reportedly attempted to take him away forcibly at the very outset of the Discussion. Mr. Sapamcha Kangleipal aged about 27, son of Mr. Sapam Shyamsunder Meetei of the Nongada Thongkhong, Imphal East under the Lamlai Police Station, Manipur has been working at the local grassroots level as President of the Manipur Forward Youth Front (MAFYF) over the last seven years.

MAFYF organised this public discussion on the existing issue of the Arming the Civilians on 7 May 2008 at the Manipur Press Club, Imphal. The discussion was the follow up of one incident triggered by some armed cadres of People Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), an armed opposition group in Manipur, reportedly shot dead two girls and a boy while another girl sustained injury causing her eyes blind in the evening of 24 March 2008 at a local traditional festival dance (known as Thabal Chongba) spot at Heirok, Thoubal District.

As the result of the violence, by the non state actors the residents of the Heirok village have been agitating for demanding to issue guns to them in order to defence themselves from such future armed assail. Later, another village, Lilong Chajing, Imphal West District also have been reportedly demanded the same for their own self guard. Eventually the Government of India agreed and advanced the plan of the arming the civilians of Heirok and Chajing with 300 and 200 weapons respectively. The recruitment for issuing guns has been conducting since 5th May 2008 at Heirok village.

The discussion started at around 11 am with a penal of Senior Lawyer, University Professor and Journalist amidst audience of women rights defenders, youths, civil society leaders, human rights activists, media personnel etc. Within a few minutes, while Kangleipal was giving his key note address of the event, two police personnel allegedly entered the hall where discussion was going on and forcibly switch off the live telecast of ISTV (a local cable TV network).

Soon after Kangleipal completed his speech, a (special) police commando team also allegedly entered the venue on the main entrance of the hall and physically one policeman with a black scarf on his face reportedly pulled him. However, taking the advantage of media and other participants' presence of the event, Kangleipal sneaked on to the dais. He informed the panellists of the situation and the lawyer who is one of the panellists even requested the police and government authority through the mike/microphone of the discussion in order not to execute undesirable action without legal basis. The event was reportedly going on in the mid of some tensions but the speeches and statement were normally democratic and fair enough upon the government, the discussion moved on up to the formal end part. The police commando allegedly remained waiting for the chance off the media and audience.

As Kangleipal did not give chance to arrest him there, the police were waiting until the end of the programme to nap him without any legal procedure. The discussion was over at around 5 pm. The other participants were allegedly forced to left the venue, but women human rights defenders (Meira Paibee) who participated in the discussion realising the tense, they reportedly started to confront with the commandos as the police asked them to go away from the Press Club and leave Mr. Kangleipal alone. Eventually after hours long tussle between the women and the police in front of the media at the Manipur Press Club, the police team reportedly picked him up after issuing arrest memo and brought him to the Imphal police station at about 7.20 pm and thereby some 5/6 women reportedly got themselves into the same vehicle voluntarily despite of police forcing them not to come along.

Before his arrest, Mr. Kangleipal reportedly told to the media, "If we could not discuss and express regarding a decision of a Democratic Government, what is the meaning of democracy".

He was arrested by providing the reason in connection with FIR No. 129 (5) 08 IPS under section 124 A IPC and section 9 of Punjab security Act and Section 8 (b) Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act.

Follow Up:
On 7 May 2008,After hearing Many of the leading civil society groups of Manipur namely, United People Front (UPF), National Identity Protection Committee (NIPCO), All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU), Manipur Peace and Integrity Council(MAPI-Council), Manipur Forward Youth Front (MAFYF), Centre For Organisation Research and Education (CORE), All Manipur Kanba Ima Lup(AMKIL), Tammi Chingmi Apunba Ima Lup(Tammi Chingmi), All Manipur Women Social Reformation and Development Samaj(NUPI SAMAJ), Advanced Women Society Sekmai, United People Administrative Council (UPACO), Thoubal District United Women Development Organisation, Thangmeiband Apunba Ima Lup(THANIL), ANUL ( Bishnupur), Macha Leima and Ethno Heritage Council(HERICOUN) are strongly protesting the arrest and demanding the unconditional release of Kangleipal immediately.

Action requested

Please write to the Indian authorities and ask them to:

i. Take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Sapamcha Kangleipal

ii. Release Mr. Sapamcha Kangleipal immediately and unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Sapamcha Kangleipal as well as against all human rights defenders in India;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", as well as Article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration";

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by India.

NOTE: Manipur Forward Youth Front (MAFYF), is a purely voluntary civil organisation working in the field of human rights, conflict transformation and peace building, anti drugs, social issues especially of youths. The organisation is one of the fore front citizen's groups which comprise of youths for the protection and promotion of human rights at the grass roots level. They frequently have been urging the government to talk dialogue with arm opposition groups and peace building in the state.


Amnesty International Imphal Group

[To read this posting in Hindi language, click here]