A mob tried to storm the personal residence of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh at Heingang in Imphal East on Thursday evening, amid simmering anger over the murder of two Meitei students who went missing in July. The photos of their bodies surfaced on social media earlier this week, leading to agitations and demonstrations by students.
A government official said that additional teams of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), the Centre’s anti-riot police, were deployed near the CM’s residence. The crowd was stopped at a distance from the house and dispersed with the use of non-lethal weapons. Mr. Singh was not present in the house when the incident took place.
The Manipur police posted on X (formerly Twitter) that adequate security is in place, adding that “the news of CM’s personal residence being mobbed is false and misleading”.
At the heart of the protest is discontent about the slow pace of investigation in the students’ murder case, compared to the swift action taken by the police into the May 4 incident reported from Thoubal when two tribal women were paraded naked and raped. The video of the sexual violence went viral on July 19, and police made the first four arrests on July 20. In the students’ case, however, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the State police are yet to make any headway; in fact, the bodies are yet to be recovered.
Also on Thursday, the Manipur Director General of Police (DGP) constituted a committee to look into allegations that the security forces have used excess force over the last few days in the Imphal area, while the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended its deadline for the Manipur government to record details of illegal migrants in the State, including biometric details. Although the State was due to complete the exercise by September 30, it has now been granted an additional six months till March 31, 2024.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State President A. Sharda Devi told The Hindu that protestors had vandalised her house on Wednesday night as well, in an attack that left her niece injured.
“This is the sixth time my house has been attacked. They hurled stones at us. It is possible we are attacked again. The students were angry, they wanted to know why they were subjected to violence and why there was not enough condemnation to this incident as in the case of two women who were paraded naked. Due to my intervention, three students, all juveniles who were apprehended by the police, were released yesterday,” Ms. Devi said.
She said that such attacks were unprecedented, adding that though the police have deployed security near her residence in Imphal, others residing in the area also needed protection.
In another incident on Wednesday night, the office of the district magistrate of Imphal West was also vandalised, and two cars parked in its vicinity were set on fire.
Police excess allegations
An order by DGP Rajiv Singh said that a committee is being formed to verify the complaints and allegations of police excess, which will submit its report at the earliest. The committee will be headed by K. Jayanta Singh, Inspector General of Police, Administration, who will be assisted by another officer, Th. Sanatomba Singh.
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Over the past few days, several students and other people were injured in the valley districts as the police cracked down on street protests against the students’ murder. In a post on X, the Manipur police said that, in a meeting on Thursday, senior officers of the Central armed police forces (CAPFs) were “apprised of the unfortunate injuries of students as well as security personnel”. The forces discussed the need to use minimum force in dealing with the public, especially students, the police said.
The police also appealed to students to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in maintaining peace. “Any miscreants taking advantage of the current situation will be firmly dealt by police. The joint security forces are making all efforts for expeditious investigation into all the cases,” it said.
The RAF has been accused of using pellet guns against students, though officials have denied its use during crowd-control measures. Around 40,000 central security forces, including the RAF, the army and the CAPFs, are presently deployed in Manipur to assist the State administration.
‘Act of barbarism’
BJP legislator Rajkumar Singh Imo also posted on X, saying, “I strongly condemn such act of barbarism by the Armed Forces. Can’t they use water cannons and other forms to stop such agitation? Armed Forces should be instructed to be more humane in dealing with such kinds of delicate situation. Those involved should be given punishment as per law.”
Rakesh Balwal, an Indian Police Service officer posted in Jammu and Kashmir, was prematurely repatriated to Manipur on Thursday. Mr. Balwal, who originally belongs to the Manipur cadre, has been posted as Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar since 2021, when the Centre had approved his deputation to the Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had informed an all-party meeting in June that as many as 40 IPS officers have been deployed in the State since May.
Meanwhile, the families of the two students killed in May urged the authorities to locate the bodies so their last rites could be performed in a dignified manner.
Hijam Kulajit, the father of Hijam Linthoingambi, said that at least a small portion of the clothes she was wearing would be needed to give her a respectful send-off according to Meitei custom. The girl’s mother is bedridden due to her grief, a family member said.
It was learnt that the mother of the other slain student, Phijam Hemjit, still cooks for him as she is unable to accept his death.