Complaint to NHRC demanding Immediate arrest of the members of Arambai Tenggol, who attacked the house of Human Rights Defender, Babloo Loitongbam

Oct 10, 2023
By Kavita Srivastava, V. Suresh


Justice Arun Mishra,
Chairman, NHRC, India

Subject: 1.Immediate arrest of the members of Arambai Tenggol, who attacked the house of Human Rights Defender, Babloo Loitongbam and of Meitei Leepun who have imposed an illegal ban on him from appearing in public platforms.

  1. Protection of the life and liberty of Babloo Loitongbam and his family members and providing police security to them at their house in Imphal West district.

Dear Sir,

We are shocked that on 5th October, 2023, the house of senior human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam, of Human Rights Alert, in Imphal West district, Manipur, was attacked by members of the vigilante organisation, Arambai Tenggol, who threatened to burn his house if he did not issue an apology for his statements against the role of the Arambai Tenggol and the Meitei Leepun in inflaming the Meitei – Kuki conflict. Despite the Imphal police knowing about the incident and having visited the occurrence site, till now no FIR has been lodged. Neither has any protection been provided to Babloo and his family.

This letter is in three parts. Part one is about Babloo Loitongbam, part two about the incident of 5th October, 2023 and part three puts across the demands in this matter.

Babloo Loitongbam: A consistent voice for human and constitutional rights in the North East

Babloo Loitongbam lives in Imphal. His address is Kwakeithel Thiyam Leikai, Imphal West District, PIN-795001, Manipur. He lives in a joint family with his senior citizen parents, his wife who works in the Government of Manipur, and their three daughters and his younger brother’s family. They are all law-abiding citizens, highly respected in their society and with no criminal cases against them.

Babloo, has been working in the area of Human Rights for the last 30 years with the organisation called Human Rights Alert and has led the struggle for the repeal against the unaccountable Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. As you are aware, a large number of false encounters were reported from the state of Manipur, carried out by the combined command of the Army, paramilitary and the state police. Irom Sharmila who sat on a fifteen years fast in Imphal for the repeal of the law was a researcher in HRA, when she took this decision of sitting on a fast unto death in 2000. Similarly in the case of the killing of Manorama in 2004, and the ensuing huge protests by civil society member, HRA played a very important role to set up a series of dialogues with the Government of Manipur (GoM) and Government of India (GoI), on the concerns of the people of Manipur and women’s organisation, demanding justice for Manorama and the end of AFSPA.

Babloo and his organisation, Human Rights Alert, believe in non-violent forms of working towards peace in the region. In every encounter death and other rights violations, they first petition GoI and the GoM for justice, as the case maybe. They also petition statutory bodies of the Indian state, whether NHRC, the SHRC, the NCW, and the judiciary, at all levels, including the District court, the High Court and the Supreme Court. Presently the petition number 129/ 2012 titled, `Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) and Human Rights Alert Vs. the State of Manipur and Union of India’, is pending before the SC and final arguments are pending. The last ten years saw the SC set up the Justice Santosh Hegde committee which gave its report in 2013, and confirmed several facts alleged in the petitions of EEVFAM and others. We are sure that when the SC finally passed order in the above petition, there will be some specific and general directions to safeguard, protect and promote human rights of the people in the region. Apart from the above, it is important to highlight another facet of the work of Babloo Loitongbam and HRA, especially in the area of education for human rights. The work in human rights education undertaken by HRA resulted in creating educational materials and conducting human rights trainings all over India. The organisation also associated itself with the implementation of the Supreme Court orders on the Right to Food. This apart, Babloo and his team in Human Rights Alert have been working on other issues of securing `Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’.

The Incident of October 5th, 2023 

From news reports and other eyewitness accounts we have tried to put together a chronology of the attack of 5th October on the house of Babloo Loitongbam by cadres of Arambai Tengol in Imphal West. During the late afternoon hours of Thursday, 5th October, 2023, a group of about 40 to 50 members of the vigilante group Arambai Tenggol came to Babloo Loitongbam’s house, in his absence. His younger brother Mr. Loitongbam Canny Singh met them.

They reportedly wanted Babloo to publicly apologies for his comments against the Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun which he had supposedly made in an interview that he gave in May, 2023 when the clashes between Meitei and Kuki had just started. Since Babloo was out of station, his younger brother spoke to him over the mobile phone as the leader of the Arambai Tenggol Mr. Korunganba Khumam, insisted on speaking with Babloo.

Over the phone Mr. Khumam, told Babloo Loitongbam that he should publicly apologise for the interview he had given to a news-portal for stating that their organisation had started the clashes and that they operate like the RSS.

Babloo Loitongbam tried to communicate gently that since both are working for the society, mistakes can be inherent in anyone’s work, and suggested that they meet in person on his return to Manipur Mr. Khumam, lost his temper and shouted and abused Babloo over the phone that he had no right to talk about their organisation’s mistake!

All efforts to calm him down did not work and a little later Mr. Khumam and his team let out their fury and started vandalizing Babloo’s house. They also reportedly pulled out their guns and threatened his family members. One of the neighbours Mr. Laishram Johnson who tried to reason with them was also beaten. They threw chairs and tables and smashed the doors and windows of the house and also smashed the car of his father which was parked in their courtyard.

Aggressively they demanded from Babloo’s brother and daughter who was also in the house, to give them access to the CCTV hard disk, which they took away when they left.

Since Babloo’s wife was also at work and Babloo was unavailable, they were very worried for the safety of their parents and children. The threats and intimidation were real.

The Arambai Tenggol cadres gave a deadline to Babloo, through his brother, that if a public apology on video is not received by them by 8.00 pm the same day, 5th October, they would come back and this time seriously threatened to burn down his house. Later over the phone, they persisted with Babloo’s brother whether he had received the apology on video and whether it had been uploaded on his Facebook page for public viewing. For the sake of reducing tension, and offsetting the persistent threats, Babloo was left with no option but to apologise on video which was sent to them and reportedly, the situation calmed down a bit thereafter.

We learn that Babloo thereafter informed the matter to the Manipur Security Advisor, Mr. Kuldip Singh, through WhatsApp, who in turn is said to have asked the DGP, Manipur, to enquire into the matter. Earlier, on the same day, the Meitei Leepun held a press conference and issued a ban order against Babloo and former Dy SP, policewoman Brinda Thounaojam, from making any public appearances on TV or otherwise, until the ethnic tension was over. (The details about the threats, intimidation and violation of the rights of Ms. Brinda Thounajam will be sent later).

It may be known that this was not the first attack on Babloo’s house, Earlier on 12 May 2023 there was a strong rumour that Arambai Tenggol was going to burn down his house for the same interview. And next morning the Meitei Leepun people came to his house and threatened his family members. That day too Babloo was not home.

On Babloo’s return to Manipur, he joined several public meetings and spoke on the ongoing conflict. It is important to point out at this juncture that Babloo Loitongbam was awarded a human right award, the Ng Mohendro Memorial Award, on Irabot day, 30 September 2023 where many Arambai Tenggol volunteers were also present. But no body raised any issue publicly that day.

It is important, given these circumstances, to launch a probe as to why and on whose instigation the attack and ransacking of Babloo’s house on 5th October, 2023 took place us. It bears repeating that Manipur is witnessing a situation of the total breakdown of the rule of law and the attacks – with impunity – against Babloo Loitongbam’s house is a telling evidence of the same. It’s imperative that the state government take action against the vigilante groups and send out a clear message that actions such as the forcible entry into the house of a citizen , intimidation of family members and destruction and vandalization of property will not be tolerated in India which is a society governed by the rule of law and the Constitution of India.

The PUCL views the attack on Babloo Loitongbam with due seriousness. It is shocking that the Biren Singh Government has failed to respond and fulfil the basic constitutional responsibility of any government, to protect the lives and liberties of all citizens. Even though the facts reveal the commission of serious crimes on 05th October, 2023 in Babloo’s house, when unruly elements of vigilante groups, Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Lipun took law into their own hands, threatened Babloo’s family members with guns, ransacked and damaged their car and other household belongings, the police have failed to promptly register an FIR, investigate the crime and arrest the perpetrators.

We would like to point out that five days have passed and no FIR has been lodged nor has any form of investigation undertaken into the incident that occurred on 05th October, 2023 in Babloo Loitongbam’s house. The threat, to Babloo’s life as also the personal safety of his wife and daughters, and of his aged parents, brother and his family still looms large.

The complete apathy, indifference, inaction and silence of the Manipur State Police strongly supports the view that nothing can be expected of the state police and government by way of safeguarding the life, liberty and property of Babloo and his entire family.

It is under these dire circumstances that the PUCL urges the NHRC to intervene in this incident immediately and ensure on priority basis, the following:

  1. Ensure that, the DGP and the SP (Imphal West) suo motu get a FIR registered in the jurisdictional police station against all the persons involved with the vandalism, intimidation, threatening with pointed guns, coercively extracting an apology from Babloo and beating up the neighbour and other such acts what happened on 5th October, 2023 at Babloo’s house, in Imphal West district
  2. Arrest the members of Arambai Tenggol, including the leader, who vandalised his home and intimidated the family members and the members of Meitei Leepun who illegally called for a ban against Babloo and another.
  3. Security should be provided to Babloo Loitongbam and all his family members as the vigilante groups have issued open threats. They may attack any of the family members again at any time and without warning.
  4. NHRC must urgently seek a report from the State Home department, the DGP and SP – Imphal West District, regarding the incident that day.
  5. Since Babloo Loitongbam is a human rights defender, and human rights defenders are the eyes and ears of the NHRC, it is incumbent upon the NHRC to urgently conduct its own inquiry in Manipur thereby communicating its seriousness in ensuring the security of Babloo Loitongbam and his family members
  6. Write to the Biren Singh Government to protect the freedom of speech and expression of Babloo Loitongbam and all others who may have an opinion at variance with the opinion of other elements in society, especially in today’s polarised environment.
  7. We would also request the NHRC to formally take notice of similar vigilante threats to the life and safety of former police officer, Dy SP, Ms. Brinda Thounaojam.

We feel the NHRC must immediately register a case and do the needful so that a strong message goes to the Biren Singh Government and the vigilante groups, that they have to be accountable for their violations of law and commission of offences, including human rights offences.

The NHRC must immediately register a case and take action so that a strong message goes to the Biren Singh Government and the vigilante groups, that they have to be accountable to the Constitution and the rule of law. The NHRC must also ensure that the life, liberty and personal safety of Babloo Loitongbam and his family members are fully protected.

We would request that this complaint be registered by you as a part of the focal point section of the NHRC

With regards,

Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL
Dr. V Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL