Imphal: Manipur came to a standstill on Monday following a 24-hour total shutdown call from Sunday midnight by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) formed after the brutal murder of tribal leader Athuan Abonmai.

All major roads in Imphal wore a deserted look and most shops remained shut.

In a show of solidarity with the JAC, several civil society organisations (CSOs), Meira Paibi groups, student bodies and political parties extended their support to the statewide shutdown.

Athuan Abonmai, the former president and advisor of Zeliangrong Baudi (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland), was abducted by suspected cadres of NSCN (IM) on September 22 from Pologround, Tamenglong headquarters, right under the nose of large security forces deployed in the area for a function. Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and other cabinet ministers were also present at the function that day.

The chief minister later drew flak for not immediately launching a search operation for Abonmai. According to reports, the CM and his ministers continued with the function and even played an exhibition football match at the Pologround.

Later, the CM admitted that there were security lapses when the incident took place. He, as the home minister of the state, apologized to the people for the security lapses.

Many CSOs and political parties had demanded the CM’s resignation following his apology. They had argued that an inquiry will not be meaningful if the chief minister, who is also the home minister of the state, remains in his position.

The JAC has, meanwhile, demanded for a high-level inquiry by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), besides demanding immediate suspension of the DC and SP of Tamenglong District.

On Sunday, the JAC had a meeting with the CM at his residence on the latter’s invitation. However, it failed to break the ice with the JAC sticking to its charter of demands, including the suspension of Tamenglong DC and SP, who were shifted from the district after the incident.

In the meeting, the chief minister said that the Tamenglong DC and SP didn’t inform him in time about Athuan Abonmai’s abduction on September 22, said JAC members. The JAC said this itself is valid enough to suspect collusion and conspiracy on part of the DC and SP with the perpetrators and warrants their immediate suspension if not termination.

The JAC has also demanded replacing IG (Intelligence) Radhashyam Singh, chairman of the inquiry committee, alleging his negligence, inefficiency and ineffectiveness had created security lapses that led to the abduction and subsequently killing of Athuan Abonmai.

In the wake of the incident, the state had deployed a large number of security forces in Tamenglong to search for the culprits. So far there have been no arrests from the area. The police had arrested two people from the valley as “prime suspects” in the case but local residents claimed that the two men are innocent.

As many as 16 police personnel were also suspended for negligence in performing their duty. Their possible role in the incident has also been investigated.

A vocal social activist, Athuan Abonmai had strong views against the NSCN (IM). He had contested in a couple of state general elections unsuccessfully from Tamei assembly constituency. He also championed the cause of peaceful coexistence and unity of the state, speaking at various platforms across Manipur. 

Also read: Athuan Abonmai murder: MHA orders NIA probe, JAC calls for 24-hr bandh

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