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Internet Shut, Students Injured After Police Fired Tear Gas Over Protests In Imphal

When police used tear gas to disperse a throng in Imphal protesting the murder of two Meitei students who went missing in July, scores of students were hurt. A day ago, images of the two friends’ bodies appeared on social media. The two students, according to the Manipur administration, were “murdered.”

According to Manipur Police, protesters were scattered with little force. “There were protests and rallies by students in connection with the viral photos of dead bodies of two missing students. Security forces used minimum forces to disperse the congregation and fired some tear gas shells in which some people got injured,” police said in a statement.

Rapid Action team (RAF), the anti-riot central police team, responded to a video clip that had been shared on social media. “A video is being circulated on Whatsapp groups/ Twitter showing that RAF personnel while dealing with violent mob are passing casteist remarks. The voice in the alleged video clip is not of RAF personnel. It appears that video maker has intentionally recorded casteist remarks in his own voice to tarnish the image of RAF troops.

The alleged video has been made to defame and discourage the RAF force personnel who are performing their duty with high level of dedication and sincerity. The RAF personnel remained deployed in different parts of Imphal city for law-and-order duty throughout the day and even during night hours. RAF personnel work on the principle of use of minimum force and graded response to the situation,” RAF said.

On September 27 and 28, the Manipur State Government issued an order to close all schools due to the “current law and order situation.” Following their restoration on September 23, mobile Internet services were again banned for five days, marking the 143rd day since the outbreak of ethnic conflict between the tribal Kuki-Zo and Meitei people on May 3.

The two were last seen near Joujangtek in the Bishnupur district, where state police and central security personnel conducted raids on September 26 in an effort to find their bodies.

The two pals were last spotted taking pictures and selfies on July 6 near a stone quarry in Laikha, according to an August 2 report by Imphal police on “progress of investigation.”

The report said that some Kuki village volunteers of Joupi village advised them to return home but the 20-year-old man went to a Kuki bunker looking for a banned substance. “In no less time, some armed Kuki militants in a four wheeler jeep/gypsy arrived and took them to an unknown place,” the report said.

Police said in its report that no eye-witnesses could be found during the investigation and they could not easily visit the suspected place of occurrence of crime “as the areas are mostly dominated by the Kuki militants.” The report, based on information provided by “sources” and examination of an unnamed police official, added that the State Investigating Agency was “handicapped in carrying out the investigation” as the case involved “armed Kuki Militants ”adding that the probe should be handled by highly trained and resourceful investigating agency such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which can “access all areas of the country to book and prosecute offenders by appropriate law of the land.” The case was handed over to CBI the same month. Police has handed over the call detail records and other evidence collected so far to the CBI.

The 20-year-old deceased was reportedly mentioned as a suspect in the 17-year-old girl’s father’s original registration of an abduction case, which was included in an application submitted by a Meitei group to the Supreme Court. The girl’s absence from her tuition classes prompted the filing of the case.

Nevertheless, according to the police investigation, the two are “suspected to have been kidnapped and murdered by the Kuki militants on the basis of ethnic cleansing.”

A few days after mobile Internet connections were again available in the State on Monday, images of the two Meitei students’ bodies appeared on social media. In one of the photos, the two friends are seen sitting next to each other, with armed men in the background. In another photo, their bodies are seen lying near a rock.

24 Manipur legislators sent a memo on Tuesday to the office of Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi requesting that the CBI be instructed to act quickly so that those responsible are held accountable and justice be given as soon as possible, as it was in the case of the incident on May 4. On May 4, two tribal women were gangraped and paraded naked through Thoubal; on July 19, a video of the incident went viral.

According to agency officials, chartered Director Ajay Bhatnagar of the Central Bureau of Investigation will travel to Manipur on a chartered flight on Wednesday morning with a team of officers to investigate the matter.

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