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Imphal, October 4, 2023 – A significant step towards addressing the pressing issues of sexual violence survivors and victims of ethnic conflict in Manipur was taken today as the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Mittal Committee conducted visits to Kanggui and Lamka. Comprising three eminent jurists – Justice Gita Mittal (former Chief Justice of J&K High Court), Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi (former Bombay HC judge), and Justice Asha Menon (former Delhi HC judge) – the committee was accompanied by Manipur’s Chief Secretary, Vineet Joshi.
The visit aimed to engage with survivors of sexual violence, student groups, and civil society organizations such as the Zomi Council Steering Committee (ZCSC), Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), and the Joint Students’ Body (JSB). Additionally, representatives from the district administration, including the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police, were present during the interactions.
Meeting Survivors and Inquiring into the Investigation Process
During their visit, the committee met with survivors of sexual violence, who were accompanied by caretakers and legal support teams from the Zomi Students’ Federation. The survivors recounted their experiences and concerns, shedding light on the harrowing incidents they endured.
The committee’s inquiries spanned various aspects, including whether any actions had been taken against police personnel who were present when the incidents occurred. They also sought details on the progress of the ongoing investigation and assured the survivors of swift and exemplary justice.
Addressing Concerns of Civil Society Organizations
In meetings with various civil society organizations and the Joint Students’ Body Lamka, discussions covered a wide range of issues stemming from the ethnic conflict in the region. Concerns related to students who were forced to discontinue their education due to the conflict were highlighted. Moreover, the challenges faced by health facilities and services, as well as the conditions within relief camps and the well-being of displaced persons, were thoroughly examined.
The Zomi Council Steering Committee (ZCSC) expressed its growing concern about the delay in delivering justice for tribal communities. They specifically noted that, despite filing a series of First Information Reports (FIRs), no chargesheets had been filed for tribal victims even five months after the conflict. Furthermore, the committee was informed about the pending issue of identifying victims (deceased bodies) of the conflict, many of which remain in Imphal morgues. The victim’s families had raised their grievances but had not yet been contacted to identify their deceased family members.
In response to these concerns, the committee assured all parties of the Supreme Court’s unwavering support in ensuring that justice is delivered to every affected individual. They pledged to investigate the matter thoroughly, reflecting the gravity of the situation and the urgency of providing a resolution.
Visit to Relief Camp
The committee concluded their visit by visiting one of the relief camps in Lamka, specifically ECA Tuibong. This visit provided them with a firsthand understanding of the conditions faced by displaced persons and the challenges encountered in the relief camps.
The Supreme Court-appointed Justice Mittal Committee’s visit to Manipur signifies a significant step towards addressing the longstanding issues of sexual violence survivors and victims of ethnic conflict. Their commitment to ensuring justice and their engagement with various stakeholders in the region offer hope for a brighter future in this conflict-torn region.