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Death of two Myanmarese: HRA urges MHRC to recommend Manipur Govt a compensation of 20 lakh each

FILE PHOTO: HRA team with Myanmar national inmates at Saadbhavana Mandop, New Lamka, Churachandpur District in 2021.

HRA has submitted a representation on Friday to MHRC regarding the custodial death of two Myanmar women. It also alleged that there was a violation of the right to food and right to health of the surviving 27 Myanmar nationals in judicial custody at Saadbhavana Mandop, New Lamka, Churachandpur District. 

TFM Desk

Human Rights Alert (HRA) has urged the Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to recommend the Government of Manipur to grant an interim compensation of at least Rs 20,00,000 each to the next-of-kin of the two deceased Myanmar nationals who died due to COVID-19 in judicial custody at Saadbhavana Mandop, New Lamka, Churachandpur District. 

HRA has submitted a representation on Friday to MHRC regarding the custodial death of two Myanmar ladies and also alleging violation of the right to food and right to health of the surviving 27 Myanmar nationals in judicial custody at Saadbhavana Mandop.

In the representation, HRA put forward its findings of their inquiry conducted into the custodial death of two Myanmar ladies on Thursday. 

On March 31, 2021, the Churachandpur police arrested 29 Myanmar nationals, including six minors, staying without proper documents from Ngathal and Kawnpui villages of Churachandpur. A First Information Report (FIR) no 38 (03)2021 CCP PS under section 14 of the Foreigners Act was registered against them. When they were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Churachandpur, the same day, it was recorded that they “crossed over the border due to threat and fear of persecution as a result of the military coup and that their lives have been endangered as such (sic) escape and crossed the border without any valid documents and papers”. They were nevertheless remanded to police custody till April 07, 2021. 

The representation also mentioned that, in the meanwhile, the Government of Manipur declared the Saadbhavana Mandop (centre) as a temporary prison under Prison Act, 1984 vide its order No:6/1(1)/2021-H(DC) dated April 01, 2021. After the production of the 29 accused before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Churachandpur on April, 07, 2021, 28 of them were remanded to judicial custody and kept at the centre. A juvenile, amongst them, was transferred to an Observation Home, at Ramthar Village, Churachandpur District. But soon the separated juvenile re-joined the group in the centre with due permission from the Chief Judicial Magistrate.  

The plan of the Government of Manipur, to transfer the 29 Myanmar nationals to different jails in Imphal scared them as they think that it will separate the families into separate men, women and children’s jails. The prospect of living amongst the population where they cannot speak the same language and do not understand the culture disturbed them a great deal. 

So, they requested the authority to allow them to continue to stay together at the centre. Civil society organisations such as the Zomi Youth Association and Zomi Mother’s Association of Churachandpur also volunteered to provide them basic food so long as they are in Churachandpur. The concerned government authority conceded to their request but did not provide them with any food or health care. 

According to HRA’s findings, by the end of May and beginning of June many of the inmates of the centre felt sick. They requested medical help, but felt on deft ears. Only on June 5, some medical personnel came and checked their health. Nine of them were found to be COVID positive. Two of them were in critical condition and were immediately admitted to District Hospital (COVID Isolation Ward). One of them, Ma Myint, daughter of Usan aged about 46 years died on June 6, 2021. Her condition is said to have worsened after being admitted to the hospital. Two days later, on June 8, Mukhai daughter of Nita aged about 40 years also succumbed, in the same hospital.  

Another 13 more inmates of the centre were also found to be COVID positive and they were shifted to a designated COVID Care Centre at Churachandpur Government College for treatment on June 7. After testing negative, they returned back to the centre on June 16, 2021. 

HRA pointed out that the death of Ma Myint and Mukhai occurred after they were arrested and kept in the custody of the state for three months. During this period in custody, the inmates were not provided food by the state, but depended solely on the charity of civil society organisations. 

“In doing so they were deprived of their right to adequate nutritious food. Moreover, they were also deprived of the mandatory medical attention they deserve as any other prisoner. Even when they fell sick and were desperately calling for help, the help came only when the situation became out of control. This systematic deprivation of the right to food and right to health in state custody during the pandemic, ultimately causing the death of two of them, is nothing short of custodial violence. 

HRA alleged that it is in violation of the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India available to “all persons” including the “non-citizens”.  

HRA urged MHRC to ensure that the inmate of the centre is provided with adequate nutritious food as well as regular medical attention as per the standard norms of any prison or designated prison without any discrimination. It also demanded to ensure that the NHRC Guideline on Custodial Death is strictly adhered to while dealing with this case – including the mandatory reporting to the Secretary, NHRC as well as the Magisterial Inquiry into the incident by a Judicial Magistrate. 

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