TODAY -

The ghost of Sanjit

Yambem Laba *

Shoot-Out at Khwairamband Bazaar on July 23 2009
Shoot-Out at Khwairamband Bazaar on July 23 2009



Chungkham Sanjit, a former member of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army of Manipur, was killed on BT Road in the heart of Imphal in broad daylight on 23 July 2009 by Manipur police commandos.

The same day, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh informed the assembly that Sanjit was killed in an encounter with police commandos and that a woman, Rabina, had died in the crossfire.

All seemed well in Manipur, home to countless extra-judicial killings, but the public raised a hue and cry, highlighting the fact that Rabina was then eight months’ pregnant and was accompanied by her two year- old-son.

The state Human Rights Commission then attempted to investigate the matter in spite of strong opposition from the government. Its member, Lt-Col RK Rajendro Singh, is on record as having said that he had been in the Army long enough to differentiate between killings as a result of small arms and rifles.

Then came the startling revelation by Tehelka magazine exhibiting a series of photographs which showed Sanjit being chaperoned by commandos inside a pharmacy and, later, his body being brought out. The identity of the photographer is still unknown but it sure blew up a storm in the state.

Then Sanjit’s mother approached the High Court, which subsequently ordered a CBI probe. Then the cookies started crumbling and the Tehelka correspondent who wrote the story was allegedly subjected to mental trauma and apparently threatened to reveal the identity of the photographer or not to stand by her story in a subsequent CBI query that followed. But she stood her ground.

The CBI, in its report of the findings submitted to the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal, had pinpointed one Thounaojam Herojit, head constable of the Manipur police commandos, as the person who had fired the fatal bullets at Sanjit. Nothing about who ordered it or the circumstances under which the act was carried out was revealed.

Altogether nine personnel of the commandos, including Herojit, were earlier placed under suspension. All seemed almost normal for many years and Sanjit’s killing and Rabina’s death were beginning to fade from public memory. Then came the bombshell on 25 January 2016, during which Herojit made an almost deathbed confession before a group of select media, including a national TV channel. He blurted out the actual scene, almost play-by-play, behind the killing of Sanjit.

According to Herojit, soon after the firing on the BT Road began, the commandos had apprehended Sanjit and he was unarmed at the time of his arrest. Herojit also had prevented his fellow commandos from beating up Sanjit and he was later taken into Maimu Pharmacy.

That was when then additional SP of Imphal West District and now SP of the same district, appeared on the scene. As usual, Herojit saluted him and reported about Sanjit’s arrest. That was when the SP directly ordered that he be finished off, using the Manipuri parlance of “Touthokharo”.

Herojit is also said to have pleaded with the additional SP that it was broad daylight and that there were mediapersons in the vicinity. The SP then gave him an even sterner order that the chief minister and then director-general of police, Yumnam Joykumar, were in the know and that they had given him the “go-ahead” signal; and as for the mediapersons, he would take them away on a wild goose chase, which he succeeded in doing, and not to worry about anything as the state would take care of everything thereafter.

Then Herojit, already involved in 133 killings between the police commandos and their adversaries, entered the pharmacy, drew his 9-mm pistol and pumped six bullets into Sanjit’s torso. The latter died on the spot. Later, another 9-mm pistol was planted in Sanjit’s hand and the doors of the pharmacy opened soon enough and his lifeless body was carried out. Herojit also said that he felt no remorse whatsoever about killing Sanjit as he was simply carrying out the order of a superior officer.

Herojit had little idea of the trouble that would hound him thereafter, not from the public or insurgent elements but from his own force, the Manipur police. Already under suspension, he and his eight colleagues were told to fend for themselves in terms of the CBI query and the subsequent court cases that were to follow.

His house was raided by the Manipur police on 8 December 2015 and he was accused of conniving with militants and was even taken into custody and kept in the police lock-up.

The last straw came when he was transferred to the 8th India Reserve Battalion on the campus of the 7th Manipur Rifles, which also lodges a lot of surrendered former militants. That was when he realised plans were now afoot to have him killed by these former militants, some of whom were earlier reported to have killed a former colleague and cooked and eaten his flesh. That was when he decided to spill the beans.

Sure enough, there has been a lot of hue and cry at the Centre, the BJP government there being none too pleased with the functioning of the Congress government. The CBI reacted almost instantaneously, stating that it was prepared to reopen the case if Herojit’s statements were found to be authentic.

See a full gallery section on BT Killing (July 23 2009) here


* Yambem Laba wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Writer is The Statesman’s Imphal-based Correspondent
This article was posted on February 04, 2016.


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