More damning evidence has emerged from the archives of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command highlighting the hand of at least two officers and many “other ranks” in the killings of six Manipuri youths between 2010 and 2011 after they were picked up from Dimapur, Nagaland and Shillong. The Counter Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (CISU) of the Army’s 3-Corps based in Ranghapahar near Dimapur in Nagaland have been found to have been involved in this cloak and dagger operation.
The story began on 17 March 2010 when Assam Police stumbled upon three highly decomposed bodies bearing torture marks from the Kahiajanjungle under Bokajan Police Station in Karbi Anglong District. They were identified to be those of Phijam Naobi, R.K. Ronenl and Th. Prem who were abducted a week earlier by personnel of the CISU including a lady officer in uniform later identified as Rueena Kaur Keer and a Manipuri, presumed to be Major Sanjenbam Nector.
An army whistleblower Major T.Ravi Kiran of the same CISU wrote to then Brigadier General Staff reporting the killing. When the matter was kept under wraps he wrote to the GOC-in-C of the Eastern Command who ordered an Inquiry which was a brush-up operation. Major T.Ravi Kiran was admonished for trying to tarnish the image of the Army.
On 20 July 2018, Lt.Colonel Dharamveer Singh then posted as CO of the CISU in Imphal turned whistleblower. Just prior to his turning approver he was arrested by the Army and was subsequently released following a habeas corpus case filed by his wife in the Manipur High Court. In his subsequent affidavit to the High Court, he spilled the beans. Lt.Col. Dharamveer revealed as to how the CISU was behind the killing of Manipuri youths namely Phijam- Naobli, R.K. Ronenland Th. Prem in March 2010.
They were picked up and subjected to heavy torture and shot behind the Unit Mess and their bodies were dumped in the jungles in Karbi Anlong in nearby Assam. He added how in the same year – 2010 – then Major SanjenbamNector had ventured into Shillong and had abducted Thangjam Satish and a friend of his, transported them to Massimpur, shot them dead and had their bodies buried there.
He also revealed as to how the same CISU had in August 2011 taken into custody Gurumayum Jitshwar Sharma aka Gypsy, then Assistant Publicity Secretary of the proscribed Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), the political wing of the People’s Liberation Army. After having held him in custody and having demanded Rs. 1crore in ransom money from his family, he was killed. He had also revealed how the same unit had abducted a Manipuri woman with a child and had released her after receiving a sum of Rs.1crore as ransom money.
Subsequent to a writ filed by PhijamNaobli’s brother,the Gauhati High Court had ordered a Special Investigative Team to be instituted and headed by an officer of the rank of a Superintendent of Police to look into the matter. The army till then had been telling the High Court that they did not kill the trio but that they were killed in an intergang fight.
Then in August this year, The Statesman got in its possession of a citation letter signed by Colonel G.Shreekumar, the Commanding Officer of the CISU recommending Captain Rubina Kaur Kheer for award of the Sena Medal for gallantry. The citation mentioned the names of the three deceased, described them as PLA militants and stated that the Captain had been able to infiltrate the gang, how she shot them dead and how arms and ammunitions were recovered from their possession. The letter was signed in 2010 around the time when the matter of the three killings had just surfaced. No mention was made of the FIR lodged over the killings and the Police Station where the recovered arms and ammunitions were deposited.
The Statesman had reported this news on 13 August 2018, and this has not been controverted. Subsequent to revelations by Lt.Col.Dharamveer and the publication in The Statesman, the Army appointed Major General N.Shukla, a serving Major-General from the South Western Command at Jaipur to look into the charges. He had also met this writer in the course of the investigation.
More recently, other damning information has come into the hands of Human Rights Defenders and The Statesman. It is a report of the Board of Officers looking into citations for gallantry and distinguished service awards. The Number, Name, Unit, Formation and Regiment of the individual are placed in the report. This Board looks into all the details of the citation. The Initiating Officer (IO), Reviewing Officer (RO), Senior Reviewing Officer (SRO) and the Next Senior Reviewing Officer (NSRO) all append their signatures on it. The document pertains to awards and medals to be announced on Republic Day2011, meaning they were for actions said to have been carried out in 2010.
The list carries the signatures of Lt.General J S Bajwa, Major General Ranbir Singh, Brigadier H S Bedi, Colonel S K Acharaya, Colonel Debashis Das and Lieutenant Colonel A S Pundir and it was countersigned by the then GOC-in-C of Eastern Command, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh on 17 September 2010.
On 6/7 February, then Major Sanjenbam Nector accompanied by Havildar LaishramIbonungshi and Sepoy Phulen Basumarty accompanied by a few other ranks checked into the Gurkha Training Centre in Shillong. From where they had fanned out and picked up Thangjam Satish, a Manipuri boy studying in St.Dominic’s College and another person identified as one Naobi said to have been the Assistant Chairman of the proscribed Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Lanheiba group. Then they drove down to Masimpur in nearby Cachar District of Assam and shot and buried them in the jungles. These three names appear in the list of citations received for awards in 2011.
In the case of then Lieutenant Rubeena Kaur Keerand her two Non Commissioned Officers, Havildars Varinder Pal Singh and Shamsher Lal, their names were forwarded by CISU for award of medals for the killings of the three Manipuri youth in 2010.
Apart from the exploits of Major now Colonel Sanjenbam Nectar and then Lieutenant and now Major Rubeena Kaur Keer, there is the disappearance of GurumayumJiteshwar Sharma aka Gypsy then holding the rank of Assistant Publicity Secretary of the proscribed Revolutionary People’s Front the political wing of the People’s Army and his subsequent execution. According to Lt.Colonel Dharamveer, Gypsy was picked up on 18 August 2011 and kept alive till 5 September. In the meantime, the rogue army men allegedly got in touch with his family and initially demanded Rs. 1crore for setting him free.
Speaking to The Statesman, Gurumamyum Nutunchadra( 61), elder brother of Gypsy, the perpetrators had initially demanded Rs 1 crore. It was then brought down to Rs.20 lakh. Before the haggling began, he said that the family had deposited Rs. 1lakh into Gypsy’s account on 25 August. This was drawn out in five instalments – four from an ATM in Manjasinha in Assam and the fifth from Katkhakhattion the Assam-Nagaland border. Then they were ordered to bring the remaining Rs.20 lakh to Gauhati where they went and the payment was done beneath the flyover at Paltan Bazar in Gauhati. Thereafter the trail went cold till it was revealed by Lt.Col.Dharamveer that Gypsy was shot dead and his body buried behind the CISU’s Mess in Rangapahar.
On 8 December, Philem Manikumar elder brother of Philem Naobi Singh and petitioner of the case before the Gauhati High Court wrote to the SP of the SIT constituted by the High Court. Apart from mentioning that he had already been quizzed by the SIT at his home, he added that he was enclosing some documents pertaining to the fact that his brother was killed and prayed that he be kept abreast of the status of investigations.
Speaking to The Statesman, Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert and the man behind the case in the Supreme Court seeking a relook into extra-judicial killings of 1528 Manipuris at the hands of the police and the security forces, said the body has already urged the Union Home Ministry to provide protection to whistleblowers like Lt. Col. Dharamveer Singh and Naib Subedar Ramesh Chand of the Assam Rifles who has now been kept under close arrest in Agartala for revealing staged arrests and procurement of clandestine weapons by Assam Rifles for use in fake encounters.
But all said and done, it is time for the Army to discard all its rogue elements and undergo massive spring cleaning.
The writer is the Imphal-based Special Representative of The Statesman.