The chief judicial magistrate of Imphal East has begun hearing a complaint filed by a private citizen against at least two Kuki intellectuals accusing them of incitement amid the ongoing strife in Manipur.
The two are Kuki Womens Forum convener Mary Grace Zou and Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA) general secretary Wilson L. Hangshing. The KPA — led by Hangshing, a retired Indian Revenue Service officer — supports the BJP government in Manipur from outside.
News reports have referred to a similar case filed by a different private complainant in the same court against University of Hyderabad professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing, also from the Kuki community.
Zou, Hangshing and Hausing had recently given interviews to journalist Karan Thapar for The Wire news portal.
The e-courts website lists Zou and Hangshing’s alleged offences under IPC Sections 156A, 200 (false declaration), 295A (outraging religious feelings), 298 (verbally outraging religious feelings), 505(1) (incitement) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) and the Information Technology Act’s Section 66 (dishonesty or fraud). Section 156A does not exist and appears to be a typo for 153A (promoting enmity). This newspaper could not find Hausing’s name on the e-courts website.
Two hearings have taken place on June 28 and June 30. On the second day, the statement of the complainant, Lourembam Cha Somerendro, was recorded. The next hearing is scheduled for July 24.
Zou, Hangshing and Hausing told The Telegraph on Friday that they were not willing to speak about the case against them until they receive something in writing. They said they had not received any communication from the court till Friday.
Since May 3, at least 140 people have been killed and around 60,000 displaced in clashes in Manipur.
Zou, a Delhi-based academic, said: “I said in the interview with The Wire (uploaded on June 14) and I am saying now that we will lose an entire generation of young people from all communities in Manipur whose education has been disrupted by the violence, unless the Centre does something. Indian medical students from Ukraine have been given an opportunity to complete their studies here. The Centre can shift our medical students to other colleges in the Northeast.”
She added: “The other thing I want to raise is the ‘no work-no pay’ circular of June 26. All the homes of Kukis have been destroyed in Imphal. Where will government officers go and stay? Our lives are at risk in Imphal and people are in camps or with relatives. How will they survive if their salaries are stopped?”
Hangshing said he was not in Manipur when this newspaper spoke to him. “My house in Imphal has been destroyed. Fortunately, I managed to escape Imphal on May 9 in an army truck that was part of a convoy heading out to Kangpokpi District…. Nobody has contacted me and I am unaware of any such case,” he said.
In his interview with Thapar in May, Hangshing had said that Kukis would not go back on their demand for a separate state or a Union territory and that chief minister N. Biren Singh was “anti-Kuki”.
Hausing, the professor, tweeted: “If a majoritarian state and its regime chose to use its coercive monopoly of power to silence truth and violate human rights with impunity, we have to remain united, reclaim and fight for these.
In his interview with Thapar last month, Hausing had stressed the need for President’s rule and an effective curfew, and for the Prime Minister to appeal for peace.
Members of Hausing’s department of political science as well as the CPM-backed SFI and the CPIML Liberation’s AISA have issued statements of support.
AISA said: “The complainant who claims to be a social worker based out of Imphal filed a complaint against Mr Hausing for an interview he had given to the news portal, The Wire…. It is surprising to see how views articulated through the media are now being construed as criminal activity.”
Suhas Palshikar, a Pune based academic and chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics, tweeted the Hyderabad varsity political science department community’s statement and wrote: “That an academician doing sober analysis is implicated while nothing much happens to resolve the root cause says a lot!”