From 2013 to charge hearing in 2022 Long road to justice

‘How can a 15 year old child be a terrorist ?’ poser or something to this effect raised by the Justice Santosh Hegde panel in 2013 to now the Session Judge of Imphal East issuing notices to 9 cops for charge hearing on May 26, 2022 over the alleged fake encounter killing of a young man from Thoubal Haokha back in 2009 and surely the extra-judicial killing case filed by the EEVFAM and HRA in the Supreme Court of India has come a long way. The opening poser is related to the six cases randomly picked by the panel set up by the Supreme Court and while the apex Court has obviously taken a serious note of the matter, it stands that the Government of the day is yet to give prosecution sanction to many more such cases. Only time will tell how things proceed in the coming days, but thanks to EEVFAM, HRA and the legal team behind approaching the Supreme Court, it stands that late night ‘encounters’ and the accompanying killings are passe’ now. As professionals engaged in collecting and disseminating information to the people everyday it was not unusual to receive reports late in the evening of so and so ‘encounter’ at some places, prompting reporters who are on the ‘crime beat’ to always be on their toes as the evening sets in. And almost all the stories had a similar line or two, ‘So and so unidentified person killed in retaliatory firing’. All the stories had a similar ring around it, aptly summed up in the sentence, ‘The patrol party was out on duty and so and so person was signalled to stop for checking. Instead of stopping, the patrol party was fired upon and in the retaliatory firing so and so was killed.’ This was invariably followed by family members and locals telling an entirely different story of how the deceased person was picked up from his house and whisked away. So regular had such stories become that Sub-Editors who had some experience, knew how to pen down the opening line of the late evening ‘encounter story’, before the field reporter had even filed the story after collecting it from the spot ! In fact situation had come to such a pass that those were the days when parents and elders would worry over the presence of large number of men in khakis on the streets, more so when their children and wards return home late in the evening after being out with friends. Such was the mentality fed by the prevailing situation !
And it was this prevailing situation that just before every 15th August or 26th January it was not the general strike call that elders were wary about but more about the huge presence of security personnel on the streets of Imphal hours before the general strike imposed by the armed groups came into force ! The common line of advice from elders and parents to their children was, ‘Don’t go out late in the evening, the streets are full of policemen.’ It was never about the general strike which was about to come into force ! Situation has certainly improved a lot ever since the Supreme Court took up the extra-judicial killings, and this should just be the right moment for the police set up and the State Government to seriously ponder on why the men in khaki had become an object of aversion and not hope or relief to the people. Thanks to EEVFAM, HRA and the legal team, the long arm of the law seems to be catching up with some of the trigger happy uniformed men and one hopes the Government of the day does not resort to the oft repeated and oft maligned, ‘delaying tactics’ and grant the sought prosecution sanction. If the men in uniform are guiltless then let the Court decide that, but tried they should be for Manipur has seen too many stories of ‘picked up and bullet riddled body’ discovered the next day. Let the Court proceed with the hearing scheduled on May 26 and let justice be delivered. The police cannot act as the Judge and the executioner and the same goes for all power players out there in the conflict situation that Manipur finds itself in today.