2 Meitei lawyers representing Kuki Professor Hausing targeted by mob, houses and chambers vandalised in retaliation attack

A day before the attack, 4 lawyers assisting in case against Professor Huasing had withdrawn their names from the case citing “personal difficulties”, they told Hindustan Times that they withdrew names to protect the feelings of the members of the Meitei community

In a shocking display of lawlessness, violence and impunity, the houses and chambers of two lawyers in Imphal were attacked and vandalised by a mob of unidentified people as retaliation to them representing Kuki Professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing before the Manipur High Court. It is essential to note that Hyderabad University Professor Huasing is a professor of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad and is facing a criminal case for allegedly making remarks against Meitei community in an interview. On August 14, interim protection was granted to Professor Huasing from coercive action for two weeks by the Supreme Court and he had been asked to approach the Manipur High Court for reliefs.

It is crucial to highlight that on August 31, prior to the attack, four lawyers, namely Soraisham Chitarajan, Victor Chongtham, Th. Zingo, and A Priyokumar Sharma had to decide to not appear for Professor Huasing in the Manipur High Court. A memo had been filed by them in the High Court before the Bench of Justice A. Guneshwar Sharma informing the court about their withdrawal from the case, which was accepted by the court on the same day. Notably, on August 29, the state saw a fresh spate of violence that continued for three days, and claimed eight lives and left 20 injured.

Targeted attacks against the lawyers:

As per the of report of the Hindustan Times, on September 1, the residences and chambers of Soraisham Chittaranjan and Victor Chongtham, two Meitei lawyers in Imphal, were vandalised by a group unidentified people. Advocate Chittranjan provided to the Hindustan Times that “On Friday, around 2.15pm, a large mob came to my residence at Singjamei Chingamakha Maibam Leirak locality in Imphal West district and started damaging the house and my chamber. The entire house and its contents were damaged.”

Advocate Chittaranjan also highlighted that even after the attack, the police did not provide him and his family any security, and that they are staying in a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) guest house. “Though my family members were lucky to have escaped without any physical harm, police haven’t provided us with any security. At present, we are taking shelter in a CRPF guest house,” the HT report provided.

As per the report of the HT, the Singamei police station had registered a case on the said incident and stated in its report that around 300 people stormed the house of the lawyer as news spread that he (Chittaranjan) was the counsel of a Kuki community case in Manipur High Court in connection with ongoing communal clashes between Meitei and Kuki community. Notably, the said first information report (FIR) has been lodged under Sections 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 427 (Mischief causing damage), 445 (house breaking), and 448 (house trespass) of Indian Penal Code.

The police report also provided that “the mob became tense and violent and destroyed his house occupied along with his brothers S Jiteshwor and S Manoranjan…as a result of which most of the house and household items were totally damaged, but luckily (there was) no casualty.” As per the HT report, the police had asserted that the investigation is underway.

In the five hours following this incident, the residence and chamber of lawyer Victor Chongtham, who was also a counsel for Hausing, was also attacked by a mob. The located at Khonghampat Awang Leikai locality in Imphal West district. As per the media reports, the mob allegedly pelted stones at Chongtham’s house and damaged the walls and windows of the house. Reportedly, no one was injured in the attack and the lawyer was away in Agartala at the time of the incident. Victor provided to the HT that “The attack took place between 7pm and 10pm on Friday. Most members of the mob were residents of the area. There were some women too. The police had visited my place after the incident, but I am not aware if a case has been lodged.” 

Withdrawal of case to protect the feelings of the Meitei Community: Advocate Chittaranjan 

As per the report of the HT, Advocate Chittaranjan provided that they had to withdraw their names from representing Professor Hausing to protect the feelings of the members of the Meitei community. He stated “Me and my colleague had accepted the case of Hausing on being instructed by a Supreme Court lawyer, who is my mentor. But since myself and my colleague are Meitei and to avoid any hurt to Meitei community, we withdrew ourselves from the matter on August 31.” It is essential to note here that since May 3, ethnic violence has gripped the state of Manipur. The dispute has stemmed from animosity between the state’s mainly Hindu Meitei majority and the predominantly Christian Kuki-Zo community. Over 163 lives have been claimed and around 50,000 have been displaced.

Advocate Chittaranjan further stated that even after withdrawing their names, the Meitei lawyers were attacked, further discouraging other members of the legal fraternity to take up the said case. “Regrettably, around 300-400 unknown persons destroyed my office annexed to my residential building completely. Under the present circumstances, legal professionals feel hesitation in handling cases involving threat to personal liberty and security,” he added.

Reactions to the mob attack on lawyers:

Senior Advocate Anand Grover, who represented the Professor before the Supreme Court and the High Court, told The Hindu that his instructing lawyers in Imphal had to withdraw from the case after they received threats. “They were facing threats and vandalism and so the lawyers assisting decided to withdraw.”

As per the report of the Hindu, Professor Hausing expressed his dismay by stating, “First, they threatened the lawyers on Thursday. Then the office of one of the lawyers was vandalised on Friday and so they withdrew. This is most unfortunate and goes against the principle of natural justice. It does not bode well for law and justice in the State.”

Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), an umbrella group of Kuki organisations in Churachandpur district, stated in a condemnation note issued on September 2 and stated, “The threats to the lawyers by members of their own community show the level of intolerance and radicalization among the Meiteis. Mr Hausing has the right to defend himself in court and the lawyers were only doing their job by filing paperwork in the case.” 

What is the case against Professor Hausing?

Professor Hausing has been vocal about the alleged role of the State government in radicalising the Meitei community during the current Manipur violence. In July 2023, an Imphal East resident Moirangthem Manihar Singh filed a case against Professor Hausing following his interview with a journalist Karan Thapar on June 17. In the interview for the news website The Wire, the professor had spoken about the violence ensuing in Manipur. In the said complaint, Singh had alleged that Professor Hausing made derogatory statements about a holy religious site associated with the Meitei community and defamed the community, increasing “communal enmity” at a time when Manipur is witnessing ethnic clashes.

On July 6, an order was issued by the court of chief judicial magistrate of Imphal East taking cognizance of the complaint. The court had stated that there were prima facie materials for offences against Professor Hausing under sections of IPC, including Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 200 (using as true a declaration knowing it to be false), 295A (deliberate act to outrage religious feelings) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

It is essential to note that Professor Hausing is facing another case in Imphal West, where a complainant has accused him of not being an Indian citizen and alleged that he had forged his documents to procure identity papers. The court has asked police to prove the accusation.

In August, Hausing had approached the Supreme Court of India seeking relief in both cases lodged against him. On August 14, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had prohibited any coercive action against the professor for two weeks, allowing him “breathing space” to approach a competent court for relief. Pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court, Professor Hausing had filed his petition in Manipur high court after that.

On August 29, Professor Hausing had filed a criminal petition in Manipur High Court seeking the quashing of a court case registered against him in Imphal East and withdrawal of the summons issued to him in the aforementioned case. The next date of hearing in Hausing’s criminal petition pending in Manipur high court has been fixed for September 4.


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