Our ‘Demystifying Civil Society’ series, thus far, has focused on a single umbrella organization, the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations (CDRO), which appears to be intricately linked to the ‘activists’ arrested recently over allegations of aiding the banned CPI (Maoists). We have mentioned how various organizations affiliated to it have a history of its members being arrested for links to Naxals and how an organization with clear separatist inclinations that was affiliated to CDRO published a report that demonized the Amarnath Yatra. In another article in the series, we elaborated the links between NOTA and CDRO.
Confusion at the very beginning
In this article, we shall focus on one certain organization COHR, Manipur. There appears to be certain confusion regarding the name of this organization as the acronym has two full forms. One is Coordination of Human Rights, Manipur and the other is Committee on Human Rights, Manipur. It could very well be that both these names stand for the very same organization. The CDRO bulletin for the month of March 2015, mentions both these full forms for the same acronym.
Thus, we can assume with relative certainty that they are either the same organization or fraternal organizations or intricately linked to each other as the chairman of Coordination of Human Rights, Manipur and Committee on Human Rights, Manipur is one and the same person, Phulindro Konsam. PUDR lists Coordination of Human Rights, Manipur as one of the coordinating organizations of the CDRO but Committee on Human Rights, Manipur is linked with the CDRO too as it hosted an event that was organized by the umbrella organization. Thus, for the purpose of simplicity, we will assume that COHR, Manipur represents a single entity going forward.
The COHR has long been involved in a campaign against AFSPA. While opposition to AFSPA is not a red herring in itself, he recently said while speaking at an event that Manipur ‘lost its independence’ after it was merged to India and that AFSPA was imposed because India feared retaliation by Manipuris. Phulindro has also alleged that Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statements indicate a genocide of the indigenous people of the northeast. In the same event, the organizers which included the COHR vowed to intensify their protests against AFSPA.
COHR, Manipur’s has a history of taking controversial stands on contentious issues. In June 2013, it had condemned the killing of six NSCN (Khaplang) cadres by the 10th Assam Riffles in an ‘alleged’ fake encounter, an extremist outfit that was designated as a terrorist organization by the Government of India only two years later. It appeals in one of its reports, “Allow the indigenous people of Manipur to exercise their inalienable right to Self-Determination under Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICESCR and general international law.” It can be interpreted as the organization harbouring clear separatist inclinations.
In 2017, COHR, Manipur was one of the organizations which demanded a review of the 105MW Loktak power project and that the Ithai barrage constructed for the project be decommissioned while maintaining that the project does more harm than good for the state. In 2012, Phulindro Konsam along with Gautam Navlakha, the activist who was recently raided by the Pune Police for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence, were campaigning to stop the construction of mega dams in North East India. Konsam was himself reportedly arrested by Manipur Police in 2014. Konsam was also an attendee of an event which was organized to oppose the drilling of oil in Manipur. Konsam, reportedly, was one of the delegates who submitted their respective reports to the Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders, United Nations, Margaret Sekaggya in 2011 who made a spirited argument for scrapping AFSPA at a session of the UN at Geneva.
COHR, Manipur is connected to the Human Rights Law through (HRLN) through the Manipur unit of the latter. They are both members of Manipur based Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights (CSCHR). We have reported earlier in a previous article in the series that the HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC) which receives foreign funds from abroad and then engages in political activism in India. We have also reported that the HRLN is involved in a campaign for the abolition of Indian sedition with the CDRO. The CSCHR had claimed in 2015 that Manipur was on the brink of an inter-ethnic conflict. Considering that nothing of the sort has happened in the three years that have since passed, the claim can be disregarded as sheer fear mongering.
Thus, we have an organization, COHR, Manipur, which appears to be harbouring separatist sentiments that is a part of an umbrella organization, the CDRO, that has a history of members of its constituents being arrested for links to Naxals. It is also linked to a foreign-funded NGO, the HRLN, through the Manipur unit of the latter as they are both members of another umbrella organization, the CSCHR. Here is another evidence of the SLIC indulging in political activism after receiving funds from abroad. A connection also emerges between Naxals, Kashmiri separatists and separatists in Manipur through the CDRO.