Imphal— In a deeply troubling series of events, Manipur has once again become the epicenter of violence. The tragic discovery of the lifeless bodies of two Meitei students, who had been missing since July 6th, has sent shockwaves across the state. Heart-wrenching images of their frightened faces in a makeshift armed camp have circulated widely on social media, intensifying the anguish of the community. In response to this grim revelation, Manipuri students have taken to the streets in significant numbers, demanding swift action and justice from the government.
Amid escalating tensions in the valley areas of Manipur, a group of people attempted to storm the private residence of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh in Heingang, Imphal East, on Thursday night. The crowd dispersed after security personnel retaliated.
The two students, Phijam Hemjit, aged 20, and Hijam Linthoingambi, aged 17, vanished without a trace in July. They had set out together on Phijam's motorcycle after she returned from her coaching classes. Their route took them along the road connecting the districts of Churachandpur and Bishnupur, but they were tragically abducted. As internet access gradually resumed in certain areas, disturbing images of the missing students began to circulate on social media, starting on September 23rd. One photograph captures Hijam in a white t-shirt, while Hemjit is seen in a checked shirt with a backpack. Both appear visibly frightened, surrounded by four gunmen in the background. Another image shows their lifeless bodies lying on the ground, with Phijam's head gruesomely severed from her torso.
A statement from the Chief Minister's secretariat has announced that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken charge of the investigation. The statement reads, "State police, in collaboration with central security agencies, are actively investigating the case to determine the circumstances surrounding their disappearance and to identify the perpetrators responsible for the heinous murder of the two students. Security forces have also initiated a search operation to apprehend the culprits."
Numerous student organizations and unions have mobilized to protest these horrific killings, with even students from the victims' schools joining the outcry. The capital city of Imphal has witnessed a series of marches since September 26th, all echoing the urgent call for justice. Regrettably, according to local reports, these peaceful protests have been met with violent suppression. Security forces have deployed pellet guns and tear gas against the demonstrators. Shockingly, even children who sought refuge in nearby houses were not spared, as the police entered residences without warrants to detain protesting students. Many have sustained severe injuries and are now receiving treatment in hospitals. An anonymous Manipuri student, speaking to The Mooknayak, expressed, "The police could have used less lethal methods to disperse the students, but they intentionally targeted them."
In response to the escalating unrest, authorities have once again suspended internet access, effective until 7:45 PM on October 1st, 2023. Additionally, beyond the police stations in the Imphal valley, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been reinstated in other regions of the state.
Amidst the ongoing student protests, a group of Meitei demonstrators made an attempt to attack the residence of Chief Minister N Biren Singh in Heingang, Imphal East, on the night of September 28th. Fortunately, this was the CM's ancestral home, and he resides in the official residence. Security forces managed to thwart their efforts by using tear gas shells, preventing the crowd from advancing closer than 100-150 meters from the residence.
A police officer, speaking to the Press Trust of India, explained, "Two groups of people approached the house from different directions, but they were stopped around 100-150 meters away from it." To further secure the area, the forces cut off the power supply, reducing visibility for the mob, and added barricades. Despite these tensions and the burning of tyres in the middle of the road by protestors, no injuries have been reported from this incident.
The situation in Manipur remains highly volatile, with the community demanding justice and an end to violence. Authorities are under increasing pressure to address these issues and restore peace to the region.