‘Everybody Becomes a James Bond with a License to Kill in Manipur’: Colin Gonsalves

July 18, 2016

In this exclusive interview with Communalism Combat and Newsclick, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves speaks of the significance of the July 8 verdict of the Supreme Court of India on the Encounter Killings in Manipur. Gonsalves has been closely involved in cases related to the excessive use of force against the people of Manipur, especially in connection with the special impunity from prosecution granted to the armed forces and paramilitary, for over fifteen years.

It was after a people’s tribunal organized by Colin Gonsalves and others, in which Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court participated that Sharmila Irom then in her early twenties began her iconic fast unto death for the repealment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger fast for the past 15 years since November 4, 2000, arrested and released several times. She is presently, again, in judicial custody.
This interview with Colin Gonsalves was conducted by Teesta Setalvad, co-editor of Sabrangindia, in Delhi on July 11, 2016. Tripura, one of the states of the north-eastern region ruled by the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) took the bold step of repealing the dreaded AFSPA in March 2015.

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Excerpts from the Interview:
The first part of the historic Supreme Court Verdict on the Fake Encounters (Extra Judicial Killings) in Manipur is a strong statement of Principle, a statement against the absolute immunity from prosecution enjoyed by the armed forces today due to AFSPA
-- Colin Gonsalves
It was the Justice Hegde Commission that went into 6 of the 62 cases(which we had taken before the Supreme Court) that remains the most significant document on the issue of misuse of the AFSPA. It is a report without ambiguity and without doubt. It is shameful for the Indian army that in not a single one of these cases carefully examined by the Hegde Commission –in which Mukul Sinha actually cross-examined armymen in uniform in the witness box –could they show that any of the people so mercilessly killed in cold blood in fake encounters, had a criminal record.
-- Colin Gonsalves
We are equally appalled and grieved when lives of army and security personnel are lost in conflict. But the powers that be must surely recognize that there is a dark side to the reality in Manipur: that innocent people of Manipur are being tortured and killed in cold blood for no rhyme or reason
-- Colin Gonsalves
The Jeevan Reddy Commission Report was a bad report by a good Judge and fortunately the government has buried it
-- Colin Gonsalves
There are instances where armymen (and policemen) involved in extrajudicial killings are rewarded with presidential medals for bravery (!!). This has happened in the case of the policeman responsible for the sexual torture of Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh and also of those involved in torture and killings in Manipur. Higher ups in the security forces, leadership of the police and the political class recommend such names.
-- Colin Gonsalves