[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Midnight knock and a killing too far

By Geeta Pandey
BBC correspondent in Manipur

Bamon Kampu is about seven kilometres from Imphal, capital of the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur.
Women protesters
Protesters have not been calmed by the authorities' reassurances

It is normally a quiet little village but has become the centre of a huge political storm.

Protesters have been on the streets this week raising angry chants. Emotions are running high.

They are demanding that killers of Manorama, a local woman of 32, be brought to justice.

One woman says: "It is better to die than to live without honour. She was a young woman, just like me. If it could happen to her, it could happen to me."

Fort protest

On 11 July soldiers of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force deployed in Manipur to fight insurgents, came looking for Manorama.

This time the people have been pushed to the wall
Koteshwar Singh,
human rights lawyer

It was a midnight knock her family would never forget.

The soldiers told the family she was suspected of helping the insurgents.

Thonjum Dolendru, Manorama's younger brother, says the soldiers dragged her out of the house and beat her up.

They tore her clothes, he says. When her mother and brothers tried to intervene, they too were hit.

The soldiers gave the family an arrest notification and took Manorama away.

The notification said that at the time of arrest, Manorama was healthy.

But a few hours later her mutilated and bullet-riddled body was found by the roadside.

Manipur erupted.

About a dozen women marched upon the historic Kangla Fort, the imposing headquarters of the Assam Rifles in Imphal.

The protesters, mostly housewives, took their clothes off, they rolled on the ground, beat their chests and wept.

The banners they carried were damning - "Indian soldiers rape us", "Indian soldiers take our flesh".

Sweeping powers

The Assam Rifles denied responsibility for her death but the demonstrations soon spread across the state.

Assam Rifles offices
The Assam Rifles - at the centre of the storm

The protesters were joined by students, artists, musicians and professionals.

Koteshwar Singh, a human rights lawyer, says: "It's the culmination of the pent-up anger, to protest against the numerous atrocities committed by the security forces in all these years.

"This time the people have been pushed to the wall."

The armed forces do admit to some lapses in the case of Manorama.

Major SD Goswami, defence spokesman in Imphal, says the army has taken a "serious note" of the outpouring of public feeling over the case.

"There were some lapses by the Assam Rifles personnel in the implementation of the instructions by army authorities for such operations. We are holding further enquiries and anyone found guilty will be dealt with severely."

But these assurances have failed to calm the local people.

They are demanding the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives the military sweeping powers.

They say it gives soldiers immunity and so leads to human rights violations.

Temple

The Indian security forces have been battling insurgency in the state for almost 25 years now.

Human rights lawyer Koteshwar Singh
Lawyer Koteshwar Singh - protests are 'culmination of pent-up anger'

The rebels are fighting for independence from Indian rule and more than 10,000 people have died.

Back at Manorama's house, her room has been turned into a little temple to her memory.

Her spectacles, her watch, her favourite blue shawl have been neatly folded and placed on the bed before a photograph of her.

In the picture Manorama looks peaceful. But peace still seems a long way away for Manipur.


SEE ALSO:
Many injured in Manipur protest
11 Aug 04  |  South Asia
Confusion over Manipur fighting
23 Apr 04  |  South Asia
Q&A: India's violent north-east
21 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Eight dead in India rebel attacks
14 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Bangladesh migrants held in India
24 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Manipur curfew after child murder
13 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Eyewitness to Manipur 'shooting'
14 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Police break up Manipur protest
16 Jan 03  |  South Asia


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific