August 28, 2000
His Excellency Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister, Republic of India
Office of the Prime Minister
New Delhi, India 110 011
VIA FACSIMILE: +91-11-301-6857
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by the August 26 bombing attack on the offices of two publications in Imphal, Manipur. The attack comes just one week after newspaper editor Thounaojam Brajamani Singh was assassinated on the streets of Imphal.
The bomb exploded at the Pan Manipur Youth League building in central Imphal. The League publishes the monthly magazine Chingkei Hunba and is preparing to launch a daily newspaper called Lambyanba (formerly a popular monthly news magazine).
The militant Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup-Oken Faction (KYKL-O) claimed responsibility for the attack in a press conference held yesterday at their camp in Chandel District, which borders Burma. The KYKL-O spokesman told reporters that the bombing was carried out because of the Youth League's alleged links to the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a rival rebel group. Local journalists told CPJ they believe the KYKL-O was attempting to prevent the re-launch of Lamyanba.
At around 11:45 a.m. on August 26, two armed men entered the Youth League building. According to local news reports, one of the rebels then proceeded to a conference room where a journalists' training workshop was being held for prospective employees of Lamyanba. The gunman ordered 11 trainee journalists and about 40 other League employees to vacate the building. A powerful bomb exploded shortly after the rebels left the premises.
The blast destroyed the facade of the building and damaged two vehicles parked outside. There were no casualties, according to the Press Trust of India.
Officers from the Manipur police, Assam Rifles, and the Central Reserve Police Force reportedly rushed to the scene, but CPJ sources fear the investigation will be dropped now that the KYKL-O has claimed responsibility. As Your Excellency is well aware, Manipur has been wracked by factional and secessionist violence for decades. Attacks perpetrated by the militant groups are considered "beyond the scope of any investigation," said one local journalist, and are almost never prosecuted.
Journalists at Lamyanba were badly shaken by the incident, and are deliberating the future of the paper.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ urges Your Excellency to order a federal investigation into the bombing of the Lamyanba office. We also take this opportunity to request an update on the status of the investigation into the August 20 murder of Thounaojam Brajamani Singh, editor of the English-language daily Manipur News.
India's reputation as a bastion of press freedom is sorely tarnished when such crimes go unpunished.
We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters, and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper