Manipur: Imphal remains tense as protests continue over death of two students
Around 25-30 protesters had sustained injuries in police action including firing of tear gas shells on Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of students were protesting seeking justice for the students
The situation in Manipur’s capital city Imphal remained tense since Tuesday night as protests against the killing of two students belonging to the Meitei community continued till late midnight in some localities of the town, police said.
Around 25-30 protesters had sustained injuries in police action including firing of tear gas shells on Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of students were protesting on the streets seeking justice for the deceased students.
The state government had appealed to the protesting students to “exercise restraint”.
The protests resumed after a brief lull of few hours in the evening with women and residents coming out to the streets in Singjamei and Kakwa.
The protesters had also clashed with police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel.
“The situation is normal in my area now. There were some protests last night as well, but security forces were able to control them. There has been no change in curfew timings because of the protests,” Imphal East superintendent of police K Sivakanta Singh said on Wednesday morning.
Protests continued in Tera Bazar and Sagolband areas till midnight and security forces resorted to firing tear gas shells and baton-charge to disperse the mobs.
“Security forces used minimum force to disperse the congregation and fired some tear gas shells in which some people got injured,” Manipur Police posted on X (formerly Twitter) at 9:51 pm on Tuesday.
The protests by students and residents took place on Tuesday after pictures of two students, one boy and a girl, who were reported missing since July 6, had surfaced on social media on Monday.
The chief minister’s secretariat on Monday evening confirmed the photos were of Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoinggambi (17) adding that investigation of the case has already been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The bodies of the two deceased are yet to be traced.
A police report (dated August 2) which is on progress in investigation into the case based on a missing person report filed by Hemjit’s father on July 8 mentioned that the students were kidnapped from vicinity of Laimanton, which comes under Loktak police station in Bishnupur district, and later killed.
“Their dead bodies were buried on July 12 somewhere at Lukhrrabi Yumpham on the line of ethnic conflict,” said the report, a copy of which HT has seen, prepared by sub-inspector K Sanajaobi Devi of Imphal police station adding that the duo “were suspected to have been kidnapped and murdered by Kuki militants”.
Following the protests and a letter by 22 MLAs of the state to Union home minister Amit Shah seeking “urgent necessary action” against those guilty of killing the two students, a CBI team including director Praven Sood will reach Imphal on Wednesday to investigate the case.
Reacting to the move, Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), a Kuki organisation accused the Centre and state government of being “selective” in expediting probe into cases of deaths and disappearances in the violence-hit state.
“We cannot ignore the stark contrast in treatment meted out to tribal communities in the ongoing violence... where is the swift and decisive action for the perpetrators responsible for heinous crimes against Kuki-Zo tribals?” questioned ITLF addressing the Union home minister on X.
In Imphal, Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a Meitei organisation, blamed the state government for failing to locate the students for months and initiate against the perpetrators.
“Why is the rule of law applied in (Imphal) valley districts?” Jeetendra Ningomba, COCOMI coordinator told journalists in Imphal on Tuesday accusing security forces of excessive use of force on students protesting against the deaths.
Clashes in Manipur first broke out on May 3 in Churachandpur town after tribal groups called for protests against a proposed tweak to the state’s reservation matrix, granting scheduled tribe (ST) status to the Meitei community.
In a statement on September 15, Manipur Police had stated that the violence had claimed 175 lives, injured 1138 and 33 persons were missing.
Among those missing include Atom Samarendra Singh and his friend Yumkhaibam Kirankumar Singh, both Meitei men aged 47 years who went missing on May 6 from Khumbong Bazar in Imphal West district.
According to their family members, the duo had gone out on Samarendra’s car and were last reported to be near Sangaithel Park in the same district, which is close to Kuki-dominated Kangpokpi district.