NHRC seeks report from Manipur government over deadly gunfight in Leithao village

National Human Rights Commission

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed grave concern over the killing of at least 13 people in a gunfight that broke out in Leithao village in the Tengnoupal district of Manipur on December 4, 2023. The commission has issued notices to the Manipur government and the state police chief, asking them to submit a detailed report on the incident within two weeks.

According to a media report, the gunfight occurred in Leithao village near Saibol, which has nine houses and around 120 residents. The village had remained peaceful since the state witnessed violent clashes between the Naga and Kuki communities in May 2023. However, no villagers were injured or killed in the gunfight.

The NHRC said that the incident, as reported, indicates a “lapse” on the part of the law enforcing agencies and the forces deployed to ensure peace and law and order in the state. The commission observed that the reported loss of 13 lives in an area that had been calm for months is “alarming and disturbing”.

The commission also said that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to a serious issue of human rights violations and is a matter of concern. The commission has taken suo motu cognizance of the media report and has asked the Manipur government and the state police chief to provide a comprehensive report on the incident.

The report should include the status of the FIR registered by the police, the identity and affiliation of the deceased, the circumstances and motive of the gunfight, the action taken against the perpetrators, and the steps taken by the state government to prevent such incidents of violence from happening anywhere in the state, the NHRC said.

The commission also reiterated that the state must protect the life and properties of its citizens, both private and public, and to promote fraternity and a spirit of brotherliness among the communities. The commission said that the state of Manipur and its people have already suffered a lot due to the ethnic conflicts and the insurgency.

The NHRC said that it has been closely monitoring the situation in Manipur since May 2023, when it received several complaints from individuals, NGOs, and activists alleging violations of human rights during the incidents of violence in the state. The commission said that these matters are being considered by the full bench of the commission and were also discussed at length during its camp sitting at Guwahati, Assam on November 17, 2023. Senior officers from the government of Manipur, as well as the representatives of the complainants and civil society, were also present at the camp sitting, the commission said.

National Human Rights Commission

The NHRC also said that it is prima facie suspected that the victims of the violence in Leithao village could be militants from Myanmar, as the nearby hills from Leithao are a common route used by them to enter Manipur. The commission said that it is concerned about the cross-border infiltration and the security threat posed by foreign militants. The commission urged the central and state governments to take effective measures to secure the border areas and to prevent any further loss of lives.