In August 2016, after a 16-year hunger strike protesting the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), civil rights activist and poet, Irom Sharmila broke her fast. Her drive for change began in 2000, in response to the slaughter of ten people at a bus stand by the armed forces in a village called Malom. This inordinate strike came to be known as the Malom Massacre. AFSPA, as it has been enforced in Manipur – often described as a ‘disturbed state’ – allows the military to execute anyone on the mere suspicion of terrorism. It has recently been claimed that there are well over 1528 individuals who have lost their lives in such extra-judicial killings between 1979 and 2012.
With this project, my aim was to understand the nature and scale of these fictitious clashes that are often called ‘fake encounters’, considering the landscape as witness. By volunteering for the EEVFAM (Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association) – an organization formed by the widows of deceased – I gained insight and gathered evidence about the situation at hand. By going through available testimonies and witness accounts, I was able to shape my current perspective – a photobook of my personal experiences in Manipur between 2016-2018.
Rohit Saha (born 1990, India) is a visual artist from Calcutta and currently based in Mumbai. His practice involves photography, illustration, and animation to narrate stories. He has been working with communities, landscapes, and socio-political phenomena in various parts of India. On completing a Bachelors in Multimedia with a specialisation in Animation from St Xavier’s College, Calcutta, he did his Masters in Photography at the National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. Saha’s graduation project about extra-judicial killings in Manipur titled 1528 won the Alkazi Photobook Award in 2017. This project was later published in the year 2019 as his first photobook. Saha was awarded the Magnum Foundation Social Justice Fellowship in 2018.