//INDIA: Police try to cover-up custodial death as suicide in Manipur

INDIA: Police try to cover-up custodial death as suicide in Manipur

June 7, 2011


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-113-2011

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Human Rights Alert (HRA) that the 12 Maratha Light Infantry stationed at Patsoi in Imphal West district of Manipur has tortured to death a young man in custody. Upon information concerning the murder, the local police have concluded that the case is one of suicide in custody, without conducting any investigation, within hours after the murder. It is alleged that the state police is trying to cover-up the murder and torture as suicide, as it has done in most other previous occasions when persons taken into custody by the military and para-military units stationed in Manipur die while in custody.


The victim in the case, Mr. Salam Sanjoy alias Bono, aged about 19 years was in the neighbouring state of Nagaland, until he was asked to come home in Manipur by his mother, Ms. Salam Ongbi Sushila Devi, a day before the incident. Sushila Devi called her son home since she was informed that once her son returns he could get a job in the military, as offered by a Major serving with the 12 Maratha Light Infantry in Manipur.

On 27 April 2011, in the afternoon Sushila Devi met two ladies namely Ms. Ningthoujam Kavita, aged about 42 years, and Ms. Aheibam Purnimashi Devi, aged about 64 years. Sushila is working as a helper in Aanganwadi centre (child care centre). Kavita and Purnimashi Devi are from the neighbouring village Takyel, Polom Leikai under the jurisdiction of Imphal West district in Manipur. Kavita informed Sushila that she had come to share some confidential conversation with Sushila. On that day, there were nearly twenty-five other women gathered at Sushila’s house. They all had come to Sushila’s house to participate in a local women’s gathering. Kavita and Purnimashi who came inside Sushila’s house told Sushila’s daughter Ms. Kiran Salam to leave the room, as they need to have some private conversation with her mother.

Kavita then informed Sushila that she could help her son Sanjoy to get a job in the army. Kavita told Sushila that she knew one Major, Mr. Mukesh serving in the 12 Maratha Light Infantry stationed at Patsoi under Imphal West district in Manipur, who could help Sanjoy to get a job. Kavita also informed that the army Major was keen to help the family before he is transferred to another state. Both Kavita and Purnimashi left Sushila’s home insisting Sushila to call her son Sanjoy who was in Nagaland, a neighbouring state should he require the job.

Sushila went out later in the evening to buy a mobile telephone recharge coupon from a local shop to give a call to her son Sanjoy. On her way back, she met Kavita once again who came in a vehicle along with an unknown man. Kavita then reminded Sushila to call her son back from Nagaland immediately. Subsequently, Sushila called her son and informed him to return home the next day.

Sanjoy reached home from Nagaland on April 28 at around 5.00pm. Sanjoy spent that night with his family.

On April 29 at around 8.00am, Sushila took her son Sanjoy to Kavita’s house and waited for the army Major to arrive. Within a few hours a team of army officers arrived at Kavita’s house and had some conversation with Kavita in Hindi. Kavita then translated their conversation into Manipuri to Sushila and to her son Sanjoy. Both Sushila and her son Sanjoy do not speak Hindi. Kavita told Sushila that the army officer was assuring to help Sanjoy before he left Manipur. Hoping that her son would get a job as promised, Sushila allowed the army Major to take her son with them.

In the evening, Kavita’s daughter informed Sushila that her son Sanjoy was admitted at the Regional Institute of Medial Science Hospital (RIMS) at Lamphel, Imphal. Sushila’s family rushed to the hospital on hearing the news about Sanjoy. At the hospital, the family found Sanjoy had died already. According to the family, Sanjoy’s body had marks of multiple incised injuries. The family claims that Sanjoy’s underwear is different from what he was wearing at the time he left home and that there was blood stains on his penis.

Sanjoy’s father Mr. Salam Kamni, immediately went to the Lamphel Police Station, Imphal West district to file complaint about the incident. At the police station the police informed him that they had already registered a case of suicide concerning Sanjoy’s death as Case No.: 10/LPS/2011 under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (report of unnatural death) dated 29 April 2011 and has concluded that it is a case of suicide in custody. They did not however offer Sanjoy’s father, how they have come to such a conclusion without conducting an investigation or even before an autopsy was conducted upon the dead body.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC), against the custodial death of Sanjoy in the Army Camp of 12 Maratha Light Infantry attached to Patsoi Police Station, was formed and the Committee submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur on April 30. A written complaint has also submitted to the National Human Rights Commission of India on May 28. Despite the complaints, no action was taken to investigate the case.