Indian environmentalistarbitrary arrested and illegally imprisoned

By William Gomes
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Mr. Moirangthem Ashnikumar Singh, an environmentalist and Vice-President of Thanga Elfare Committee, Secretary of Keibul Lamjao National Park Forum, was Arbitrary arrested on 27 April by the Bishnupur police in Bishnupur district of Manipur state.

The source said a team of Bishnupur police commandos came to Ashnikumar's house on the morning of 27 April 2010, informing him that the Superintendent of Police (SP) Bishnupur District wanted to meet him. Ashnikumar went to Bishnupur Police Station along with his two relatives, Mr. Basanta and Kunje in his vehicle. The source also said Since the SP was not at the station they waited at the police station. Later at about 3.30pm, the officers asked Ashnikumar's relatives to return home and detained Ashnikumar at the station.

According to the source On 28 April 2010, Ashnikumar was brought before the Chief Judicial Magistrate at the Bishnupur and remanded in custody for seven days. The officer in charge of the police station did not want to provide information regarding the case to Ashnikumar's family. Neither was Ashnikumar given any reasons for his detention.

On 4 May 2010 a team of Bishnupur police guided by the Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) searched Ashnikumar's house. The officers, however, failed to find anything against Ashnikumar from his house.

According to source Ashnikumar only came to know that he was detained for charges registered against him under the National Security Act, 1980's (NSA) when the Executive Magistrate of Bishnupur District issued an order (number Cril.14/NSA/DM-BPR/2010) on 4 May to detain Ashnikumar under the NSA. It was also reported that the police had registered additional charges against him under Sections 17, 20 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, vide First Information Report number 41(4)2010 of Bishnupur police. The police have also alleged that Ashnikumar is a member and fundraiser for an armed militant group.

A local human rights organization said Ashnikumar and his family deny the allegation that he is associated with any armed militant groups. On the contrary, the human rights organization said Ashnikumar is an environmental activist and a contractor who has been working for various government departments. The human rights organization confirmed that Ashnikumar is the Secretary of Keibul Lamjao National Park Forum. He is also the Vice-President of a local association named Thanga Welfare Committee. Ashnikumar's family claims that he had plans to contest in the next state assembly elections.

According to the local human rights organization It is of grave concern to discover that the police case falsely alleges that Ashnikumar was arrested from Changangei Makha Leikai. Changangei Makha Leikai is under the jurisdiction of Lamphel Police Station, Imphal West district. The family members of Ashnikumar said that this is a fabrication of the evidence and the police records as Ashnikumar had presented himself at Bishnupur Police Station on 27 April along with his two relatives. If this is true then the police officers must be held responsible for offences under Sections 190, 197 and 211 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for fabrication of evidence.

The local human rights organization said that it is a practice of the Manipur state police to fabricate evidence and falsely accuse persons of crimes and charge them with draconian laws like the NSA. The local human rights organization said that laws like the NSA are misused to a high degree and are arbitrarily used against persons by the state to detain them for prolonged periods. Such practices must end. Accoridng to the human rights organization there is a reasonable threat to Ashnikumar's life while he is in custody.

Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia and Bangladeshi Human rights organization Christian Development Alternative(CDA) sent letters to Justice K. G. Balakrishnan ,Chairperson ,National Human Rights Commission of India, Justice R. S. Garg ,Chief Justice ,Guwahati High Court , Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh ,Chief Minister of Manipur, Chief Secretary, Manipur, Director General of Police,Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur

expressing their concern about this case ,calling for an investigation into both cases. AHRC and CDA also wrote separate letters to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, calling for an intervention into this case.

The Human rights organizations also urged to the Indian authorities to guarantee the safety of Mr. Ashnikumar and his family; They urged to the authorities to record the statements of two persons who accompanied Ashnikumar to the police station and guarantee their safety; Order a judicial inquiry into the entire process of arrest and detention of Ashnikumar; The human rights organizations urged that If the inquiry proves that Ashnikumar is unnecessarily charged under the NSA, the police officers must be prosecuted for malicious prosecution as well as ordered to pay compensation to the victim.