The Supreme Court of India ordered a progress report from the Manipur government on Wednesday regarding the recovery of weaponry “from all sources.” The order is a follow-up to a previous August 7 order from the court, in which the court ordered former Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Dattatray Padsalgikar to oversee the federal investigation into Manipur Police. The court became involved following allegations of corruption in the local police force and claims that firearms were stolen from the state arsenal and used to fuel ethnic violence that overtook the small northeast Indian state in early summer.
The court also responded to three reports submitted by Justice Gital Mittal’s all-women committee overseeing the relief and rescue of victims of ethnic violence in the region. Mittal’s committee alleged that there was a lack of food and medicine available to people located in Manipur, which was further worsened by an outbreak of measles and chicken pox. Since then, nine camps have been established to help curb the outbreak. In response to these reports, Manipur authorities submitted an affidavit of their own to the court. In it, they claimed that Mittal’s committee’s findings were false. Despite Manipur authorities’ claims, the court ordered local government and judicial authorities to attend to any grievances regarding the functioning and supplies of nine camps.
One of Mittal’s committee’s reports also alerted the court of the need to upgrade the compensation scheme for people in Manipur impacted by the violence. In response, the court ordered a further report on the steps needed to bring the scheme up to standards proposed by a national legal body known as the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
The court’s primary objective in ordering the oversight of the federal government’s Manipur investigation is to establish an impartial approach in an area heavily dominated by ethnic divisions. Just this past week the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the Editors Guild of India. The case arose when Manipur police charged guild members with promoting enmity between different groups after a September 2 report from the guild found that Manipur authorities became partial in their approach to the ethnic violence.
The rule of law began has steadily fractured in Manipur since the outbreak of ethnic violence over a March order from the Manipur High Court in the case of Mutum Churamani Meetei v. The State of Manipur. The order, authored by Justice M V Muralidharan, directed the inclusion of the Hindu majority Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes, which comes with access to educational, employment and other economic benefits. The predominantly Christian Kuki and Naga communities, who already enjoy the status of Scheduled Tribes, launched protests vehemently criticizing the High Court order. Consequently, violence broke out to such a heightened degree that the government ordered the Chief Minister of Manipur, N. Biren Singh, to immediately take measures to restore peace. Even after that, a video depicting the sexual assault of two Kuki-Zo tribal women in Manipur surfaced on July 17, prompting the court to order federal oversight of Manipur Police’s probes into the ethnic and sexual violence.
The federal government has deployed some 50,000 security forces to the area and established a unified command of soldiers, but violence continues to plague Manipur. Another three people died just this past week following the exchange of gunfire between armed men and security forces.