It’s been exactly 10 years since 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was raped and murdered, allegedly by a group of Assam Rifles men. On July 10, 2004, a team of Assam Rifles allegedly reached the residence of Manorama, suspected of being a member of the banned insurgent group, the People’s Liberation Army.
On July 11, her bullet ridden body was found from the fields four km from her home in Bamon Kampu village in Imphal East district.
The incident led to widespread protests in Manipur and the rest of India. On July 15, around 30 Manipuri women marched naked in Imphal city with a banner that read: “Indian Army Rape us”. On July 24, five young men tried immolating themselves in front of the CM’s office.
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The Assam Rifles were forced to vacate the historic Kangla Fort, which was used as their headquarters and the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was finally lifted from Imphal valley, though it remained in the rest of Manipur.
However, till date, the matter is still pending before the Supreme court.
Rakesh Meihoubam, the Thangjams’ family lawyer, said, “The special leave petition filed by the Union of India before the Supreme Court in July 2011 is still pending. It was filed against the order of Guwahati High Court which pronounced the Manipur government is well within its rights and has the authority to constitute a commission of inquiry into the incident.” Meihoubam said the court has been dragging its feet and a proper investigation has not been conducted. “This, despite the fact that there are two FIRs lodged at Irilbung police station — one by the Assam Rifles and one by the family of the deceased. The state police has failed miserably,” he said.
According to the Assam Rifles, on July 10, 2004, officials gathered reliable information that a member of the banned PLA, identified as “PLA No. 1262, Corporal Manorama Devi alias Henthoi”, a militant since 1995, was in the area of Bamon Kampu Mayai Leikai. She was identified as an IED expert and a PLA informer.
Following this, an operation was launched.
Manorama’s body was found at 5.30 am by villagers the next day.
According to the version presented by the Assam Rifles: “The apprehended cadre wanted to ease herself… All of a sudden, the arrested lady cadre started to flee… The guard commander fired a short burst in the air to warn her. Other members of the guard party fired towards her legs. She suffered bullet injuries resulting in her death.”
Manorama’s younger brother, 31-year-old Doren Thangjam, said the family has lost hope. “It’s been ten years. What will we get now?,” he said.
Recalling the fateful night, he said, “We were watching TV when five-six men wearing uniforms barged in. They made us gather in the TV room, took a knife from the kitchen, asked my sister what her name was and dragged her out. They shut the door but I could see from the gap they had tied a cloth across her face and were throwing water on it. We knew she was being tortured. A Major told us we could pick her up from the police station in the morning. Before she left, the last thing she said asked me was to pick her up from the police station as early as possible.”
But by next morning, it was too late.