The Courtyard Of Earthly Justice

He wakes up early. As the only active member of the Manipur Human Rights Commission, Yambem Laba has at least half a dozen worried people waiting for him every morning. His house is the “people’s court” and his courtyard the “hearing room”. The visitors come to petition the MHRC on matters ranging from domestic spats, land disputes to fake encounters and custodial deaths (a common enough occurrence in strife-torn Manipur).

“We know he will initiate some action, that is why we come here. In this state, nothing else works,” says Binodini Devi, who has come from the outskirts of capital Imphal to meet Laba and complain against her nephew who is trying to grab her only piece of land. “Please file a complaint with the local thana first. If they don’t act, only then you come to me,” Laba gently advises her.