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PUCL to set up independent citizens panel to examine 'deep fissures' in Manipur society

Counterview Desk 
The well-known human rights group, People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), claiming to be deeply concerned over the state of continuing violence in Manipur ever since 3rd May, 2023, when the first incident of ethnic conflict broke out, has decided to set up an Independent Citizen’s Tribunal on Manipur in order to document the "violations" suffered by the people, and examine and analyse the performance and responsibilities of the constitutional authorities.
Likely to come up with an interim report in June, which would include recommendations to repair the torn social, cultural and political fabric of the state, and thereafter full report August, the tribunal would consist of eminent retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, civil servants, academics, journalists and member of civil society, says a PUCL statement.


PUCL has been deeply concerned over the state of continuing violence in Manipur ever since 3rd May, 2023, when the first incident of ethnic conflict broke out. The violence which soon thereafter engulfed Manipur, has continued unabated for the last 9 months.  The outbreak of violence has resulted in tremendous loss of life and seriously affected the everyday existence of people of Manipur. 
The reports of the unabated violence in Manipur shock human conscience. Apart from the steadily growing number of people killed (which has crossed over 200 people as of February, 2024), thousands remain displaced from their homes and fields, forced to seek shelter in relief camps where they have languished for many months, still hoping to return to their homes, hearths and fields. Livelihoods have been shattered, education of children and youth seriously impaired and health access remains a matter of serious concern. 
There have been numerous horrific incidents including mass killings, rapes, forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing in parts of Manipur. The effect of such ethnic violence is that there are no Kukis living in the Imphal valley just as there are no Meiteis in the hill areas today.  
What is perhaps most striking about the prolonged state-wide violence is the total breakdown of constitutional governance in Manipur state. Deep distrust and suspicion exists about governmental functionaries, both of the state and the Union governments. The Army has also been criticised by the contending groups, of not being neutral. 
The armoury of the security forces has been raided several times resulting in the theft of significant quantities of modern arms, weapons, ammunition and explosives which has reportedly been used in the ethnic conflict. Armed vigilante groups of the warring communities are alleged to freely move about without apprehension.  Despite nine months having passed, till today the situation of continuing violence persists, with peace seemingly a distant prospect.  
Keeping in mind the fact that constitutional governance has been all but impossible and that deep faults and fissures have opened up in the social and cultural fabric of Manipur, it was felt that an independent tribunal is required which can give a hearing to all sides, along with putting together a consolidated picture of what happened, capture the people’s suffering, ascertain the causes of the current constitutional breakdown as well as come up with recommendations to restore the rule of law and constitutional governance in Manipur.   
PUCL announces the constitution of an Independent Citizen’s Tribunal -- a panel consisting of eminent retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, civil servants, academics, journalists and member of civil society to visit all the affected areas of Manipur, speak to affected communities and relevant stakeholders as well as representatives of the state and central government and come out with an independent report.   
Considering the deep polarization and precarious situation prevailing in Manipur, such an independent citizen’s Tribunal will help restore a sense of confidence and trust in the constitutional order and institutions.
The objectives of the Tribunal will broadly cover the following: 
1)    Document the violations suffered by the people of Manipur with a specific attention to loss of life, sexual violence and violence suffered by children, women including pregnant women and the elderly.
2)    Examine and analyse the performance and responsibilities of the constitutional authorities   by documenting the action taken to prevent the violence, provide access to remedy and justice, investigate and prosecute crimes, and in all other ways to provide redressal of violations and make efforts to establish the rule of law.
3)    Examine the role of all security agencies as well as government functionaries at all levels of the state and central governments in ensuring law and order and also examine the role of independent national and state based institutions in protecting human rights.
4)    Examine existing documentation on the Manipur situation and analyse the reasons for the continuing violence
5)    Propose recommendations to repair the torn social, cultural and political fabric of the State
The Independent Citizen’s Tribunal will make efforts to visit Manipur and hold Tribunal hearings in various places so as to meet with and directly hear testimonies from various sections of Manipur society, especially the victims and those who have been displaced and are living in camps. The Tribunal will also reach out to various stakeholders including leaders of social organizations, women’s and youth groups, social influencers, media personnel, elected representatives and others, as also government officials and officials from the police and security agencies and independent institutions. 
Depending on local circumstances the Tribunal members will also hold virtual hearings. Additionally, hearings are also planned to be held in Delhi. 
The tentative schedule of the Tribunal will be as follows:
●     In-person visits and sittings of the Tribunal between mid-March and mid-May, 2024.
●     Interim report, if possible, in June, 2024.
●     The writing of the report till mid-July, 2024.
●     Final report sharing first week of August, 2024.
●     Public release of final report by mid-August, 2024.
The full details of the members of the Tribunal and the dates of the proposed visit and locations of public hearings will be announced later on.
-- Kavita Srivastava, President; V Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL



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