In a short film by Raghu Karnad and Vikram Singh, Thounaojam Herojit tells The Wire how he came to kill over a hundred men – and why he chose to confess.
Security forces in Manipur have been accused of routinely staging armed encounters to eliminate both suspected militants and civilians. The practice allegedly peaked in 2008-’09, when the onus of the counter-insurgency had been shifted to state police. The government has denied that executions take place, and provides broad immunity to security personnel for deaths that occur.
Herojit’s shocking confession came just as a new challenge was being mounted against state impunity in Manipur. The Extrajudicial Execution Victims’ Families Association of Manipur, or EEVFAM – a group that Babloo Loitongbam helped convene – had petitioned the court to investigate 1,528 cases of fake encounters it claimed to have documented.
On July 11, 2016 an interim order by the Supreme Court bench reiterated that any case of ‘excessive force resulting in death’ required criminal proceedings against the offenders – regardless of whether they were separately disciplined or court martialled by the police force or army.
Filmmaker Vikram Singh and The Wire’s editor-at-large Raghu Karnad travelled to Imphal to meet Herojit and revisit his story in his own words. They also spoke to the mother of his final victim, and to Yumnam Joykumar – the former Director-General of Police in Manipur, held responsible for the spike in encounters – who is now deputy chief minister in Manipur’s BJP government.