Politics of Palal murder case and cries for equal justice for all

Mangboi Haokip *

KSO president Paotinthang Lupheng speaking on assassination of Letkholal Haokip @ Palal on June 24 2017
KSO president Paotinthang Lupheng speaking on assassination of Letkholal Haokip @ Palal on June 24 2017 :: Pix - TSE

While the actions taken by the Police in the murder case of Haokip Students’ Organisation (HSO) president, Letkholal Haokip alias Palal, 37, are praiseworthy, there is an escalating voice of dissent and resentment in the community as to why no such actions are taken in other murder cases and how some vested interests are taking undue advantage of the situation for political gains. Palal was shot dead at Langol National Games Village on June 23, 2017.

The government must treat other cases of murder and attempted assassination equally as Palal murder case in the spirit of equality and justice for all. So must be the Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) and Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) who have been taking the lead role to bring justice in Palal murder case. Families of many other victims of crime have for too long been crying out for justice, but KIM and KSO have no ear for them.

Mr Jamkholen Mate, 30, was brutally murdered by suspected cadres of SoO signatory group, the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), with his throat slit at Tuibong, Churachandpur, on September 20, 2016. Chief of N Gamnom village in Tengoupal district Mr S Otkhomang (57) and the village church Pastor Tilpao Haokip (51) were kidnapped by armed miscreants from their village on January 6, 2017 and subsequently murdered.

Mr Albert Gengoukhup Mate, former president of Kuki Inpi Churachandpur was shot dead in April 2005 by suspected KNO cadres. Semkhongam Haokip, a truck driver, was lynched by a mob at Patsoi in Imphal West district on May 14, 2015. Ms Nengneikim alias Sheila, 21, and Mr Kaikholen, 28, were found near Sugnu on May 5, 2017. Sheila was allegedly gang-raped and murdered.

Mr Jangkholam Guite, President of KSO Gunpi block, and his driver Mr Jamchingthang Manchong were abducted and shot multiple times in the head and leg at Kholmun village, Churachandpur by suspected KNO cadres on January 1, 2017. The two miraculous survived. Mr Khuplen Haokip, MDC, Chandel ADC, survived an attempted assassination by a KNO man, Thangminlen, at his residence at Langol National Games Village on November 7, 2016. Mr Ch Chanthoi Aimol, MDC, Chandel ADC, survived an assassination attempt by an unidentified gunman while visiting at Molnom village in Churachandpur district on 17 February 2017.

No arrest has been made in any of these cases and many others. The government must arrest the culprits including the masterminds in all these cases and bring them to justice swiftly. KIM and KSO, which have ignored these cases for too long for reasons best known to them, must take them up for speedy justice.

Ms Nengneingah Khongsai (18) was shot dead in cold blood by a KNO/KNA man at round 4 am on July 23 at Moreh. Why have not KIM and KSO issued social boycott against the KNO in this case, where the perpetrator has been confirmed?

In connection with Palal murder case, it was reported in the media on July 18 that the arrested prime accused, Solomon Baite, confessed to committing the crime and the names of three other alleged accused were mentioned. One Soson Haokip alias SS Haokip clarified in the media the next day that he never met Solomon Baite, whom he described as a brainwashed accused, nor was he involved in the murder of Palal in any manner and requested the government to investigate as to how his name was linked to the murder.

Following the media report, HSO, a Haokip clan/family group organisation, issued a press release, asking the accused to spell out the reason for the murder of Palal as if the investigation process has been completed and the accused pronounced guilty by Court. Similarly, KIM and KSO-GHQ, increasingly known as KNO’s two main frontal organisations, reaffirmed their announced social boycott against the accused and the organisation they belong to. This is the first time in the history of KIM and KSO that they announced a social boycott against an individual or an organisation.

This calculated move is apparently at the behest of KNO president, Mr PS Haokip, who delivered an impassioned hate speech against a particular clan, community, tribe and groups at the funeral of Palal on July 8, 2017, and accused some people for the murder without naming them. The hate speech went viral in social media and caused unnecessary havoc in the community. The government must be watchful of this kind of anti-social and harmful activity.

PS Haokip and his organisation’s unusual and excessive interest in the death of Palal are significant to the rumour that Palal was an active high-up overground worker of the KNO. Significantly, Palal’s funeral was held, and he was buried, at Kholmun village, a KNO stronghold, in Churachandpur district instead of his village at Khoken in Kangpokpi district.

KIM and KSO’s manoeuvres and undue interference of KNO have been heavily criticised by members of the community, demanding equal treatment and justice for all. Social boycott, which is already a punishable crime in Maharashtra state with a penalty of jail term up to seven years and Rs five lakh, is uncalled for as the law of the land is taking its own course of action and there is no need for mob justice.

If at all KIM and KSO are sincere with their social boycott call why have they not boycotted KNO as the prime accused, Solomon, is an active cadre of USRA/KNO? An innocent teenage school girl Ms Nengneingah Khongsai was shot dead in cold blood by a KNO/KNA man at round 4 am on July 23 at her residence in Moreh. Why have not KIM and KSO issued social boycott against the KNO over this case?

Was the murder of Palal a premeditated crime as part of a larger conspiracy to decimate a rival group/party or individual; or was it politicised and an advantage taken of with an ulterior motive? How could the IO report end up in the media while the case was and is still under investigation? Why would KIM and KSO take a decision based on an unverified or informal IO report in the media or on the alleged statement of the prime accused, not Court judgement? Is this all about manipulating evidence and pressure tactics as part of a nefarious plot?

Whatever be it, the fact is that the accused are still accused, not guilty. It is unknown whether the alleged prime suspect made the statement under duress or the statement is fabricated or politically motivated. It is also unknown whether the said IO report in the media was authentic or not. A slight mishandling of the case could lead to prejudice; justice denied to the victim as well as the accused and increased public mistrust of the justice system.

Clearly, some vested interests are politicising Palal murder case and creating communal disharmony within the community for political gains. While the alleged statement of the prime accused cannot be ignored, the prime accused being an active KNO cadre and the connection between KNO, KIM and KSO smacks of a conspiracy.

Should KIM and KSO go ahead with its social boycott and agitation plan, there will be a backlash from the vast majority aggrieved members of the community and other organisations, potentially leading to riots and boycott sponsoring organisations being boycotted.

Calm and restraint is needed to ensure that the investigation can come to its conclusion in the fairest manner and justice delivered. Given the sensitivity of the case it would be prudent on the part of the government to be extra cautious while dealing with it, and at the same time the government must deliver speedy justice in all other murder and attempted assassination cases without further delay.

* Mangboi Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 29, 2017.

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