'We'll never get justice from state. If we get it from Supreme Court...'
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Of 1,500 alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur, six are being probed by a team set up by The Supreme Court. The families of the seven youths killed in those 'encounters' share their stories
Every morning on his way to work, Basanta Meitei walks through paddy fields and stops at a spot where the grass stands taller than elsewhere. His son Nobo is buried here, alongside his cousin Gobind Meitei.
"We are Hindus and cremate our dead, but our sons were mercilessly murdered and we buried them as a mark of protest," Basanta Meitei says. "It keeps him close to me. We performed the last rites according to Hindu customs, but I couldn't bear to part with his body."
No one in the Manipur village of Bashikhong Mamang Leikia ever cuts the grass. "I know we will never get justice from the state. Now if we get justice from the Supreme Court, we will cut the grass and erect a memorial," he says.
The killing of N Nobo Meitei and his cousin N Gobind Meitei is one of six cases in Manipur that are now being investigated by a Supreme Court-appointed panel comprising retired judge Santosh Hegde, former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh and former Karnataka police chief Ajay Kumar Singh. Its report, due in March, will determine if the Supreme Court will set up a special investigation team to probe allegations of 1,528 alleged fake encounters submitted by Manipur group Extra Judicial Execution Victims Families Association.
Nobo was 27 and Gobind 25. Nobo, a mason like like his father, had gone out with his cousin on April 4, 2009. They never returned.
"We didn't worry at first because Holi celebrations were on. The third morning, neighbours told us about the 8 am news showing the picture of a man killed in an encounter and identified as having been a member of an underground group," says Nobo's mother Lembi Meitei, 55. The picture was Nobo's. Members of the family identified the cousins' bodies at the morgue, but for a week they refused to take them home.