Mayo 28, 2007

Week of the disappeared: Tears yet to dry for family members

Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, May 27: Along with the heart breaking accounts of those whose whereabouts have not been known after being picked up by security forces, the observance of the International Week of the Disappeared began on a solemn note at Ngashan Inn, Hangleikhong in Ukhrul district yesterday.

Under the motto of ‘Helps us to find the disappeared’, the week-long observance is being organised under the aegis of Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared’s Association (FIDAM).

Recounting her grief and ordeal since the disappearance of her husband, Joicy said she has not been able to reconcile to the fact that her beloved husband may not return home and she keeps wondering whether he is still alive or dead even today.

‘But one thing, I am very sure.

I am not going to remarry’, she said with tears in her eyes.

Her husband, Mahaimi was arrested by the security forces from Imphal in 1996 and since then his whereabouts have not been known.

Originally hailing from Chamu village of Kamjong sub-division of Ukhrul district, Joicy is today running a tea shop at Ukhrul district headquarters to sustain the family and living for the sake of her two children.

Recounting another story, Canon Chamroi of Hatlang village informed that troops of 21 Sikh Light Infantry came to his village one morning in March, 1982.After calling out all the male family members, the troops picked up some of the youths including his elder brother Canon Paul and took them away.

That was the last day he saw his elder brother.

Paul was working as an assistant pastor in the Hatlang Baptist Church when the security personnel took him away.

The case of disappearance of his elder brother was taken up even in the Supreme Court.

But apart from issuing an order directing the Indian Army to pay an interim relief/exemplary damage of just Rs 1 lakh, nothing is known as to whether the security personnel responsible for the disappearance of his elder brother had been given befitting punishment or not, Chamroi said.

Paul left behind his wife and two children.

‘Because of poverty in the family, I cannot extend much help to them’, Chamroi lamented.

According to Ngachonmi Chamroi, son of late C Daniel who was arrested along with Paul, said at that time none of the public leaders could speak up against the atrocities of the security forces.

There were cases in which the Khullakpas were buried in the ground till half of their bodies and unregistered/unofficial rape of women at Somra among other excesses committed by the security personnel which were beyond human endurance, he said, adding that many families have are yet able to come out of the mental trauma they have gone through.

All these atrocities are being perpetrated with immunity granted under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 which does not differentiate between the hill and the valley people, he said while coming out strongly against the prolonged imposition of the inhumane Army Act in Manipur despite public outcry against it.

Another story that could lead to increase of membership of FIDAM was heard from Lamlangate village located along Old Ukhrul Road.

Although he could not remember the exact date, Pastor of Lamlangate Baptist Church RS Phungsin, who originally hailed from Simjang village, recounted that in 1980, his son RS Issac and one VS Canon have been arrested by the Assam Rifles from Ukhrul while they were transporting construction materials in a Tata truck.

On that particular day, a firing encounter took place between the Assam Rifles and underground activists at Ukhrul.

The duo were among many others who have been picked up by the Assam Rifles after the encounter, Phungsin said.

After four days, some of them were set free and according to their information his son RS Issac and VS Canon died from brutal torture by the Assam Rifles.

Though the body of VS Canon s/o of Meiteiching was recovered, that of his son was never found.

‘Since this incident took place long time back, I have stopped worrying about my son’, the aged pastor added.

Established in 1999 by the families of those whose whereabouts have not been known after being picked up by the security forces, FIDAM has been observing the International Week of the Disappeared since 2000. Meeting the family members of the involuntarily disappeared persons, sharing their grief and sorrow and holding discussion on possible legal assistance that could be sought for justice are some of the main highlights of the observance.

The inaugural function of the observance of the International Week of the Disappeared held at Ukhrul was attended by co-ordinator of Human Rights Law Network Advocate Meihoubam Rakesh, president of FIDAM Kangujam Ranjit and general secretary of MAFYF Premjit as chief guest, president and guest of honour respectively.

Meanwhile, on the second day of the week-long observance, a visit was paid to meet the family members of Yumlembam Sanamacha of Angtha Mayai Leikai whose whereabouts remain a mystery till today after he had been picked up by the personnel of 17 Rajput Rifles from his house on the night of February 12, 1998. Mother of Sanamacha, 75-year old Yumlembam Ongbi Arubi, whose eyes have not dried since that day, expressed her desire for construction of a memorial site in remembrance of her disappeared son to which FIDAM also gave the assurance of doing the needful.

It may be recalled that after fighting a case in the High Court, authority of 17 Rajput Rifles had given Rs 3 lakhs as compensation to the family members of Sanamacha, but the security personnel involved in the case are still at large.

Similar visits were also paid at Thangmeiband Hijam Leikai to meet the family of Laishram Bijoykumar who could not be traced after being picked by security personnel on the intervening night of June 4 and 5 of 1996 as well as at the houses of N Keizalal Paite at Langol Housing Complex and Longjam Arunkumar at Iroisemba who have also met with similar fate.

Simple gifts were also presented to the family members from the side of FIDAM during these visits.

Posted by marga at Mayo 28, 2007 7:28 PM | TrackBack
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