Imphal, Aug. 25: Forensic tests have revealed semen stains on a garment that Thangjam Manorama was wearing when she died in Assam Rifles’ custody, lending credence to the allegation that she was sexually assaulted before being shot.
The six-page report compiled by the Calcutta-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory after extensive tests was today submitted to the C. Upendra Singh Commission, which is investigating the circumstances leading to Manorama’s arrest and death on July 11.
“Human semen has been detected on the petticoat of Manorama. Human blood, group A, has also been detected on her slacks, phanek (traditional Manipuri garment) and underwear,” Upendra Singh told the media after the day’s proceedings.
He declined to interpret the findings. “I can’t give my views now. I will say whether she was raped by the Assam Rifles troops or not only in my report, to be submitted soon.”
Lawyers representing Manorama’s family and the People’s Action Committee sought a copy of the report, but the request was turned down.
The judicial commission later warned the Assam Rifles that it would issue arrest warrants against four personnel if they did not appear for a hearing at 1 pm tomorrow. The warning came after naib subedar Digamber Dutt, havildar Suresh Kumar and riflemen Ajit Singh and T. Lotha, who were part of the team that had arrested Manorama, played truant for the fourth time.
“I am bound to issue arrest warrants against the four personnel if they do not come tomorrow at 1 pm,” Upendra Singh told the Assam Rifles’ counsel, Col Dwivedi Prasad.
The commission accepted the counsel’s request that the four witnesses be interrogated in-camera, but rejected the suggestion to shift the venue of the hearing to Kangla Fort. “They should come here,” the panel’s chairperson said.
In a petition to the commission, Capt. Hemant Kumar of the 17th Assam Rifles contended that the four personnel would be exposed to militants if the hearing were to be conducted outside Kangla Fort.
The commission said lawyers representing each of the personnel, the Assam Rifles’ counsel and his assistant, the civilian parties in the case and a lawyer and an assistant representing them would be allowed to attend the in-camera session.
Manorama’s younger brother Th. Dolendro and his two uncles today appeared before the army court of inquiry, which conducted the proceedings inside Kangla Fort.
The army authorities did not allow anybody from the media to witness the hearing, though they had promised to do so.
A team from the 17th Assam Rifles arrested Manorama from her Bamon Kampu residence in Imphal East and shot her dead in the wee hours of July 11. The paramilitary force claimed she was a member of the banned People’s Liberation Army and had tried to flee, forcing the troops to open fire.
The Assam Rifles also dismissed suggestions that the 32-year-old woman was raped.
The first autopsy report backed its claim, but Manorama’s family forced the government to order another post-mortem. Vaginal swabs and her garments were subsequently sent to Calcutta for forensic tests.
The custody death triggered an unprecedented outpouring of anger. The defining moment of the agitation was the demonstration by a dozen naked women in front of the Assam Rifles base at Kangla Fort. Manipur has been burning since.