Karnataka Home Minister promises impartial probe into death of Manipur student

Seeking to contain the controversy over the police handling of the Richard Loitam case, the Karnataka government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday stepped in to pacify the northeast agitators.

What started off less than a week ago as a Facebook campaign — seeking to pressure the police into filing a murder case instead of one of unnatural death — spilled out on the roads on Sunday with hundreds of students staging demonstrations in Bangalore, New Delhi and Imphal.

Richard (19), a student of the Acharya's NRV School of Architecture on the outskirts of Bangalore, died in his sleep on April 17. The agitators claim that he was beaten to death by his seniors. But the police maintain that the youth died of injuries sustained in a road accident two days before his death.

Awaiting forensic report

On Monday, Home Minister R. Ashok told journalists that the government would conduct an impartial probe into the death. “The initial investigation reports depict that the death occurred due to a brawl between friends while watching a cricket match. We are awaiting the forensic report to take decisive action against the accused. We have not jumped to any conclusion, keeping the accused students' future in mind. At present, we are questioning the accused and I request the student fraternity to stay calm as the investigation will be stringent.”

Sunil Deodhar, convener of the BJP's Northeast India Sampark Cell, who led a delegation of Manipuri diaspora to a closed-door meeting with the Minister, later told a press conference: “We were told that an impartial probe will be conducted and if we are not satisfied with the findings of the police, the case will be handed over to the CID.”

Commending the State government, Mr. Ashok and the police for the interest they had shown in the case, Mr. Deodhar pinned the blame on the college management. He brushed aside suggestions by some of the agitators that he was enlisted by the BJP to prevent this episode from snowballing into a major controversy.

“No racial profiling”

Sharing the platform with Mr. Deodhar, Potsangbam Omprakash, president of the Manipuri Meitei Association, Bangalore, said, “I want to clarify that Richard was not a victim of racial profiling.”

Superintendent of Police D. Prakash said: “Based the statement of Richard's father, Loitam Rajesh Kumar, we will investigate the possibility that it was culpable homicide. We have sent the tissue sample to the lab and will take action based on the forensic reports.”

A murder case would be registered based on forensic evidence, the SP told a press conference.

Meanwhile, in its first official communication since Richard's death, the college management said it had extended all possible support to his family. It was also cooperating in the probe into the death.