Imphal, Oct 19 (IANS) A National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team will visit Manipur next week to assess the rights violations in this insurgency-ravaged state, a commission official said Saturday.
"The team, headed by NHRC chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, will be holding a camp Oct 23-25 to discuss the human rights violations committed by the armed forces and rebels on innocent civilians," the NHRC official said.
The visit of the members of India's apex human rights panel follows complaints lodged by human rights groups of Manipur of rights violation by government agencies.
Human Rights Alert - an Imphal-based rights group, and Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families' Association, Manipur, demanded the setting up of a Special Investigation Team to probe more than 1,500 cases of staged killings, pending in the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court issued a directive during the course of the hearing of the fake encounter cases to the national commission to visit Manipur and assess the situation," Babloo Loitongbam, the Executive Director of Human Rights Alert, told IANS.
On their arrival, the members of the human rights panel would meet Irom Sharmila, a human rights activist, who has been on indefinite strike for nearly 13 years in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, widely known as AFSPA, from the state.
Irom Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast since November 2000, demanding the lifting of the AFSPA.
She was arrested by Manipur Police shortly after she began her hunger strike and charged with attempting to commit suicide - a criminal offence under Indian law.
Human Rights Alert had lodged a complaint with the NHRC against the Manipur government's restriction on visitors seeking to meet Sharmila.
Loitongbam said the government also did not allow members of Sharmila's family to meet her.
AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in the states that have been declared "disturbed areas" riddled with militancy. Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur are among the states under the act.
Several human rights groups, including the North East Students' Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA.
Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a violation of international human rights laws.
However, army officials maintain that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue AFSPA.