Two Manipur students missing since July have been murdered, says state government
The Manipur government on Monday said that two Meitei students who had gone missing in July have been murdered and that the inquiry of the case has been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The state government issued a statement hours after photos of Hijam Linthoingambi (17) and Phijam Hemjit (20), both residents of Imphal, were widely shared on social media. The Imphal Police said they suspect that the students had been killed by Kuki militants.
“[The] state police, in collaboration with the central security agencies, are actively investigating the case to determine the circumstances surrounding their disappearance and to identify the perpetrators who murdered the two students,” the government’s statement noted. “The security forces have also started the search operation to nab the perpetrators.”
In one of the photos, the two students are seen sitting next to each other while two armed men could be seen standing behind them. In another photo, their bodies are seen lying on the ground, with one of them beheaded.
The students had gone missing on July 6, two months after violent ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur between the Meitei and the Kuki communities. Over 200 people have been killed and nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict.
The police had earlier said that the whereabouts of the two were not known and their mobile phones were found to be switched off. Their last location had been traced to a tourist spot in the Churachandpur district.
In a status report submitted to the Supreme Court in August, the Manipur Police had said that the area where the alleged murder took place was not accessible due to heavy presence of armed Kuki militants. “..State investigating agency is handicapped in carrying the investigation of the case,” it had said.
On Monday, the Manipur government urged citizens to exercise restraint and allow the authorities to investigate the killing of the two students.
“The government assures the public that swift and decisive action will be taken against all those involved in the kidnapping and killing of Phijam Hemjit and Hijam Linthoingambi,” it said. “The government is committed to ensuring justice and will impose severe punishment on any perpetrator found responsible for the heinous crime, it said.”
However, despite the government’s appeal thousands of students on Tuesday held protests in Imphal against the killing. Videos showed the security forces resorting to firing to disperse the protestors.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that the Modi government should be should be ashamed of its inaction in dealing with the violence.
“Children are the most vulnerable victims of ethnic violence,” she said. “It is our duty to do all we can to protect them. The horrific crimes being committed in Manipur are beyond words, yet they are being allowed to continue unabated.”
More than 150 people have lost their lives and over 3,000 injured since ethnic violence broke out on May 3 when a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Around 40,000 central security personnel, besides the Manipur Police, were deployed to control the violence and bring back normalcy in the state.
The state government on Saturday announced the resumption of mobile internet services after over four months. The development came due to the improving situation, Chief Minister Singh said.