Indian-administered Kashmir is not the only region in the country caught up in a conflict, although it is the most reported.
Far away in the country’s north-east, tucked away amidst hills, is the small state of Manipur that witnesses such turmoil almost on a daily basis.
Since becoming part of India, Manipur, one of the “seven sister” states in the north-east, has been wracked by protracted conflict over ethnic and cultural sovereignty.
Today there are at least 34 active armed and unarmed non-state actors operating within Manipur and across its eastern border with Myanmar, pursuing varied goals.
In an attempt to quell the unrest, India in 1958 implemented the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the north-eastern states. Under the act Indian security forces were granted sweeping powers.
Civil society groups have documented hundreds of cases of extra-judicial executions between 2007-2012.
The Indian Supreme Court at the beginning of 2013 formed and independent panel led by retired judge Santosh Hedge to investigate six sample cases of the 1,500 cases that were submitted to the court by the Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFM) and Human Rights Alert (HRA). The panel found that all six cases were “not genuine encounters” and that “maximum force” was used in each case.
In 2012 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Christof Heyns, had asserted that “in the north-eastern states, and Jammu and Kashmir, the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force.” He felt the elevated rate of extra-judicial executions are the result of a security apparatus that is empowered to act with high-levels of impunity.
The Indian government maintains innocence and argues that the procedure adopted by the panel in drawing up the list of extra-judicial killings was “faulty” and that the Supreme Court should consider it “null and void”.
The court, however, is awaiting a detailed reply from the federal government and the next court hearing has been slated for February 7.
Meanwhile, Manipur continues to live under the shadow of the gun.