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Ex-rifleman from Manipur found on Mumbai streets reunited with family after 40 years

Forty years after he went missing from his home in Imphal, a former member of paramilitary Manipur Rifles was finally traced to the streets of Mumbai — thanks to the police and a YouTube video.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2018 20:37 IST
Sobhapati Samom
Sobhapati Samom
Hindustan Times, Imphal
Missing Imphal man,Mumbai police,trending news
A warm welcome greeted Khomdram Gambhir on his remarkable return home.(HT Photo)

Eromba, a popular Manipuri dish of boiled vegetables mashed with chilli and fermented fish is what Khomdram Gambhir’s heart desired moments after he landed in Imphal — 40 years after he vanished from his home state — on Thursday.

A warm welcome greeted Gambhir on his remarkable return home, made possible by social media users and the police.

Once a rifleman of Manipur Rifles, he left home without informing anyone in 1978. His family in Khumbong Mamang Leikai village in Imphal West district did not know his whereabouts till a video of him popped up on YouTube. His story went viral recently after Twitter user and political activist Angellica Aribam shared his picture with Mumbai Police. Another user, Atom Samarendra, helped identify Gambhir, who was his neighbour in Khumbong. Samarendra also tweeted his phone number for the police to get in touch.

Khumbong residents, accompanied by Lok Sabha MP Dr Th Meinya and local MLA Dr Sapam Ranjan welcomed Gambhir with garlands at Imphal airport. They held up placards that read: “Thank you Mumbai police, Thank you Manipur police,” “Thank you YouTube, Thank you WhatsApp.”

When journalists sought his comment, Gambhir said in Hindi, “I’m very happy to see such a warm welcome. Now, I will try to live here and earn a living.” He said he would regain touch with Manipuri language within a week.

Ranjan said, “I feel happy for the family. I will try to extend necessary help.” Gambhir is the third among six siblings: three sisters and three brothers.

How social media brought Gambhir back home

Separated from his wife three months after his marriage, Gambhir left home two months later without informing anyone. The family tried tracing him, but failed.

His younger brother Kulachandra’s wife Memcha and son Romen said they heard about Gambhir from a fellow villager, Leichonbam Romen, who shared a video of the missing man in local WhatsApp group Khumbong E-pao (Khumbong news) on Cheiraoba — the Manipuri New Year day on April 14.

Romen’s engineer friend, A Dinamani, an assistant professor at the North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology in Arunachal Pradesh, shared the video, originally uploaded on YouTube by Mumbai-based photographer Firoze Shakir in October 2017.

Shakir, who describes himself as a storyteller, videotaped Gambhir as a case study after spotting him. “Children teased him on the streets calling him Nepali and he would abuse them and shout out that he was a Manipuri — an Indian, not a Nepali,” reads the description of the video.

Soon after discovering Gambhir was in Mumbai, Kulachandra alerted Patsoi police station in Imphal West district and urged them to coordinate with their counterparts in Mumbai to get his brother back home.

Manipur police officers Arambam Amitabh and Yumnam Priyobarta left for Mumbai on April 17 and completed formalities with their counterparts at Bandra Police station in Mumbai for Gambhir’s return.

Memcha, 55, expressed joy at her brother-in-law’s return. “We are so happy... I feel like crying.”

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 20:37 IST