Imphal, October 1
Four people were arrested by CBI in connection with the kidnapping and killing of two Manipuri youths, and the government will ensure the maximum punishment for them, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said here on Sunday.
The four, including the wife of the main accused, were taken “outside the state” by a special flight, Singh said.
Officials of the chief minister’s secretariat said two minor girls, aged 11 and 9 years, were detained in connection with the case but they were released later. The two are daughters of the main accused.
To protest against the arrests and demand their release, several tribal organisations based in Churachandpur called for bandhs of varied duration from Monday.
The killing of the two youths - Phijam Hemanjit, a 20-year-old man and Hijam Linthoingambi a girl of 17 years of age - had gone missing on July 6. Photos of their bodies surfaced on September 25 leading to violent protests mainly by students.
“The CBI arrested four people from Henglep area of Churachandpur district for the murder of the two youths. They were outside the state by a special flight,” the chief minister told a press conference.
He, however, did not disclose where the four accused had been taken.
During the operation leading to their arrest, personnel of the Army, paramilitary forces such as BSF, CRPF and the state police played a major role, the chief minister said.
A team of CBI officials, led by the agency’s Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar, has reached Manipur and started investigating the killings on September 27.
“As the saying goes, one may abscond after committing the crime, but they cannot escape the long hands of the law. We are committed to ensuring maximum punishment, including capital punishment, for the heinous crime they have committed,” Singh posted on X, shortly before holding the press conference.
The government will support the CBI in its investigation and all those involved in the killing of the two youths will be arrested, the chief minister said.
Photographs of the bodies of the two youths went viral on social media on September 25.
Following this, violent protests by students rocked the state capital on September 26 and 27. A mob tried to attack the ancestral house of the chief minister on the night of September 28, but security forces foiled the attempt.
Another mob also vandalised the deputy commissioner’s office in Imphal West district of the state which has been rocked by ethnic strife for nearly five months.
“In several international fora, the strife in Manipur was wrongly interpreted as a religious crisis or of majority community targetting minority community. This has confused the people of this nation and the state,” he said.
Singh also asserted that the nearly five-month-long violence in the state is “not an ethnic strife” but caused by terrorist groups which are based in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He said that the NIA on Saturday arrested one person identified as Seiminlun Gangte from Churachandpur in connection with a case of a transnational conspiracy by Myanmar and Bangladesh-based leadership of terror outfits to wage war against India by exploiting the current ethnic strife in Manipur.
“This speaks clearly about the real cause of the violence,” the chief minister said.
Gangte was the second accused arrested in the case, registered suo motu on July 19. On September 22, the NIA arrested Moirangthem Anand Singh from Manipur in connection with it.
The chief minister appealed to the people to abide by the rule of law and to get permission from the respective district authorities while taking out a rally.
“When a rally is being taken into hyper-sensitive zones, security forces respond to it resulting in clashes and injuries and so it should not be done,” Singh said.
He also appealed to all not to intimidate or harass the state police personnel, saying they have suffered much and many of them killed since the violence started.
Meanwhile, a large number of protesters demonstrated near the Churachandpur Police Station on Sunday night to protest against the arrests.
The ITLF, a conglomerate of recognised tribals of Manipur, called for an indefinite shutdown in Churachandpur district from 10 am on Monday in protest against the arrests and demanded that they be released within 48 hours.
“All boundary areas with the Meitei will be sealed from tomorrow. No one will be allowed to enter or leave the buffer zones. All government offices will be closed from tomorrow,” the ITLF said in a statement.
Churachandpur-based Joint Students Body (JSB) also called a 12-hour shutdown in the district from 6 am on Monday.
More than 180 people lost their lives and several hundreds were injured since the ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals—Nagas and Kukis—constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.
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