After brief calm, protests against killing of two students rock Imphal once again
On Thursday night, a mob of around 500 people attempted to storm CM N Biren Singh’s vacant, ancestral home in Imphal’s Heingang locality.
After relative calm during the day, protests against the killing of two Meitei students who had gone missing in July rocked Manipur capital Imphal on Friday evening and went on late into the night.
On Friday night around 11pm, protesters allegedly tried to attack the residence of L Susindro, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA and state minister for physical health engineering and consumer affairs, located at Khurai Sajor Leikai in Imphal East district.
Videos of the incident circulating on social media showed a heavy presence of security forces, including state police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) firing tear gas shells and smoke bombs to disperse the protesters.
HT couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
There’s no clarity on how many people were injured in the incident and whether the minister was present at his residence when it occurred. Police officials in Imphal didn’t respond to calls and messages till Friday morning to give an update on the situation on the ground. Unofficial reports say the situation was brought under control past midnight.
This is not the first time Susindro has been targeted. In June, a mob had torched a private go-down belonging to the minister located at Chingarel Tezpur.
The Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley has been witnessing since Tuesday after photos of two students, a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl, who were reportedly killed, surfaced on Monday.
Luwangbi Linthoingambi Hijam (17) and the Phijam Hemanjit (20), both residents of Imphal, were last seen together on July 6. Manipur Police said an initial probe revealed that the missing duo may have gotten trapped in an area dominated by the Kuki community while fleeing, after which they were allegedly abducted and murdered. Their bodies are yet to be found.
The protests had led the state government to suspend mobile internet services for five days till October 1, shut down schools till September 29 and curtail curfew restrictions in Imphal East, Imphal West and Bishnupur—all districts in Imphal Valley.
But despite restrictions, protesters have come out and clashed with police and security forces at various places and even tried to storm the ancestral home of chief minster N Biren Singh on Thursday night.
On Thursday night, a mob of around 500 people attempted to storm CM N Biren Singh’s vacant, ancestral home in Imphal’s Heingang locality, a day after an attempt was made to vandalise the residence of state BJP chief A Sharda Devi in Imphal.
More than 50 people, including students, have sustained injuries in tear gas shelling, baton charge and firing of smoke guns. At least two students have sustained serious injuries from pellet guns, one on his head and another on his right shoulder.
On Thursday afternoon, a meeting of all top officials of paramilitary forces and Manipur Police was held against the backdrop of allegations by civil society groups that security forces were using excessive force.
Manipur Police said in a statement that while the forces met to discuss the law and order situation, the officers were also apprised of the injuries of students as well as security personnel. “The forces discussed to use minimum force in dealing with the public, especially students,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the administration on Saturday relaxed the curfew in Imphal West from 5am to 2pm “to facilitate the general public to purchase essential items including medicines and food items”.
An order issued by N Johnson Meetei, additional district magistrate of Imphal West district, stated that the “relaxation shall not include any gathering/sit-in protest, rally etc. without obtaining approval through competent authority”. Essential services like health, electricity, petrol pumps, media, courts and movement of passengers to and from the airport have been exempted from the purview of the curfew.
Similar relaxation in curfew was also announced for Imphal East district.
Since the violence first erupted on May 3, more than 180 people have been killed and over 50,000 have fled their homes in Manipur.
More than half the state’s population of 3.2 million belongs to the Meitei community, while the Kuki community, who make up about 43%, live mostly in the hills.