The recent naming of an Army officer as accused in a 9-year-old extra-judicial killing case marks the beginning of a long road to justice
Imphal West, Manipur: Azad Khan was just 12 years old when he was picked up from his house, dragged to a nearby field, beaten up and shot at by a combined team of 21 soldiers of the Manipur police and 21 Assam Rifles in Imphal West in March 2009. The security personnel had received information that some armed terrorists were in the area. The entire incident had taken place in front of his family members, who were pushed and locked inside a room.
Azad was then a student of Class VII at Phoubakchao High School with no criminal antecedents, as per reports.
For the family members of the victims of fake encounter killings like Azad in Manipur, the fight for justice seems to have finally taken a giant first step. The CBI recently named an Army officer in connection with Azad’s killing. This is for the first time that the CBI, which is investigating 29 cases of extra-judicial executions – of the 1,528 cases that the Extrajudicial Execution Victims’ Families Association Manipur (EEVFAM) and Human Rights Alert (HRA) Manipur had highlighted to the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012, has booked an accused.
With its low-intensity armed conflict, Manipur has been in the news for all sorts of human rights abuses. Total shutdown strikes and sit-in-protests were until recently most common. Fortunately, the situation somewhat changed after the Supreme Court (SC) started investigating the allegations made by the EEVFAM and HRA that there were at least 1,528 cases of extra-judicial executions that took place during the period of May 1979 to May 2012.
This positive turn of events comes after the CBI director was warned by the SC for delaying in filing of charge sheets against those involved in the 29 cases of extra-judicial executions that are being investigated by the agency.
The CBI has booked an Army officer, Major Vijay Singh Balhara, who was then attached with Assam Rifles, along with seven other uniformed personnel as accused in the Azad Khan killing case.
For Wahid Ali and his wife, the news of the CBI serving summon notice in their son’s killing comes as a ray of hope in finally achieving justice in the case that the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Santosh Hegde Commission had ruled is a pure case of fake encounter killing.
Wahid Ali points to the spot where his son Azad was severely beaten up and shot dead by one of the commandos and a pistol was thrown near the body. Recollecting how Azad was dragged out from the house while locking the rest of the family members in a room, from where they could see how the crime was being carried out, the grieving father hopes that the killers of his son will be punished according to the law.
“Recalling the killing of sons and brothers is unbearable even today. What wrong did we do to see my son being shot dead right in front of our eyes? This kind of act is inhuman”
Wahid Ali, Azad Khan’s father