The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday apprehended four individuals and detained two minors in connection with the murder case of two students in Manipur in July. The photos of the victims had recently surfaced on social media, prompting swift action. The two minors were handed over to the child protection officer at Kamrup metro district for their well-being and care, according to a CBI statement.
The apex investigation agency, it may be mentioned, had registered two said cases on August 23, 2023 at the request of the Manipur government and taken over the investigation of these cases earlier registered by state police on the complaints of parents of minor victims.
The cases were registered vide FIR number 584 (7) 2023, dated July 8, 2023 at Imphal police station Imphal, and FIR number 1009 (7) 2023, dated July 19, 2023 at Lamphel police station.
The arrested individuals have been identified as Paominlun Haokip, S Malsawn Haokip, Lhingneichong Baite, and Tinneikhol. The joint efforts of a specialized unit of the Manipur Police and the Indian Army led to the capture of the suspects in the hill district of Churachandpur. The arrested accused will be produced before the competent court in Guwahati, designated in accordance with the directive of the Supreme Court.
Following their apprehension, the suspects were promptly transported to the airport, where a CBI team awaited them. The group departed Imphal on the last flight at approximately 5:45 pm.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), an organisation of the Kuki-Zo community in a statement released on Monday raised concerns regarding the arrests. They condemned the “selective haste of central investigating agencies,” who arrested four Kuki-Zo tribals including two women alleging it was done without the knowledge of local authorities, and accused the agencies of abducting two children from their homes.
The ITLF further alleged that the operation lacked women police officers and a juvenile police unit as mandated by law. They raised questions about the CBI’s swiftness in this case, contrasting it with other crimes, such as the rape and murder of two tribal girls in Imphal, the burning of a 7-year-old tribal boy and his family members, the torture and beheading of a tribal youth, and various other atrocities against tribals.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh commented on the arrests on his official Twitter handle writing, “I’m pleased to share that some of the main culprits responsible for the abduction and murder of Phijam Hemanjit and Hijam Linthoingambi have been arrested from Churachandpur today. As the saying goes, one may abscond after committing the crime, but they cannot escape the long hands of the law. We are committed to ensuring maximum punishment, including capital punishment, for the heinous crime they have committed.”
Responding to the chief minister’s statement, the ITLF said, “Incredulously, the chief minister has publicly said the “main culprits” in the students’ case have been arrested, even before any questioning (forget about a trial) has taken place, adding that he was committed to ensuring “capital punishment for the heinous crime they have committed.” Tribals, it seems, are guilty until proven innocent.”
They accused the CBI of attempting to shield the BJP government and noted that Imphal had witnessed significant protests against the government in recent weeks.
The ITLF demanded the immediate return of the four individuals arrested by the NIA and CBI within 48 hours, warning of intensified agitation in the hill areas if their demand was not met.
Notably, the case is one of the 27 related to the ongoing ethnic clashes that have been handed over to the CBI. A team of CBI officials, led by a special director, had gone to Manipur recently to expedite the investigation and deliver justice to both the grieving families at the earliest.
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Tensions escalated in the state capital, Imphal, after photos of the two missing students Luwangbi Linthoingambi Hijam, aged 17, from Tera, and Phijam Hemanjit, aged 20, surfaced. The two students had gone missing since July 6. The images went viral on social media on September 25, shortly after mobile internet services were restored on September 23 afternoon.
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