| Manipur schoolchildren demand the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Imphal on Monday. Picture by UB Photos
Imphal, Aug. 30: The judicial inquiry into Thangjam Manorama’s death in Assam Rifles’ custody gained momentum with the commander of the 17th battalion, Col Jagmohan Singh, deposing before the C. Upendra Commission.
Troops of the 17 Assam Rifles arrested Manorama from her East Imphal house on July 11 and shot her dead, claiming she tried to flee. The Assam Rifles personnel allegedly raped her before she died.
Today’s in-camera sitting took place inside the high-security Imphal Central Jail. Singh was asked to appear there before the Upendra commission after a Gauhati High Court order directed the panel to examine Assam Rifles witnesses in-camera inside the central jail.
Sources said Col Singh gave his statement during today’s proceedings which began at 11.30 am and continued till 4 pm. The commander will be cross-examined by lawyers representing the victim’s family and a local organisation after he concludes his statement tomorrow.
A commission lawyer, two lawyers representing Assam Rifles and counsel representing the victim and Thangjam Dolendra, Manorama’s younger brother, were allowed at today’s sitting.
Singh arrived at the central jail amid tight security at 11.20 am. Twenty minutes before that, two truckloads of fully armed Assam Rifles personnel descended at the jail gate to provide their commander security cover. A large number of state police and CRPF personnel were deployed along the route from Kangla fort to the jail.
Sources said the panel would examine four other Assam Rifles witnesses after they finish questioning Singh. The quartet – naib subedar Digamber Dutt, havildar Suresh Kumar and riflemen T. Lotha and Ajit Singh – appeared before the commission on Saturday. But they could not be examined in the state guesthouse where the panel was holding its hearing since the high court directed the commission to hold the proceedings in the central jail and in camera.
As the commission went about its work, students protested in front of the Raj Bhavan gates here. Police caned the students to prevent them from entering the compound. As the students tore up their books and threw them inside the compound, 35 of them were picked up. They were released later.
About 45 minutes later, another group of college students from Imphal and Bishenpur districts staged a similar demonstration at the same place. The students courted arrest, protesting against the detention of over 30 protesters under the National Security Act.
The law examination at the LMS Law College here was disrupted today because some students protested the detention of three students of the college at Sajiwa jail for taking part in the ongoing agitation.
Students of Navodaya school in Thoubal district’s Umathel today joined the “surrender text book” agitation, depositing their books at the school library.
The group of 32 organisations spearheading the agitation today criticised the Centre for responding belatedly to the situation in Manipur.