As news of four accused being arrested by the CBI in relation to the murder of two Meitei students flashed through the valley, Manipur faced a shutdown in the hill districts after Kuki-Zo organisations called for the bandh in protest. Earlier in September, Manipur had witnessed student’s protests as well as backlash from security agencies, including the alleged use of pellet guns on protestors, after the death of the two students was confirmed by the government.
These are some visuals showing the shutdown in the region. Reports attest that vehicles were turned away and businesses were shut and barriers were erected by youth to prevent movement.
— Pooja Mehta (@pooja_news) October 2, 2023
The accused arrested by the CBI are 4 people from the Kuki-Zo community, which includes two women, in connection with the abduction and murder of two Meitei students who had gone missing in July. The arrests have stirred unrest and have led to protests and once again rising tensions in the hill districts of Manipur.
According to Outlook India, the agency has obtained five-day custody of the accused persons from a Guwahati court in Assam. The court has notably upon reviewing the records found the arrests to be justified and in compliance with the required procedures and has slated that the accused will appear before the court on October 7.
The arrested accused have been identified as Paominlun Haokip, S. Malsawm Haokip, Lhingneichong Baitekuki, and Tinneilhing Henthang. They were apprehended in Churachandpur, Manipur, as announced by CM N Biren Singh.
#WATCH | Manipur CM N Biren Singh says “In a major breakthrough today, we have arrested the main culprits responsible for the abduction and murder of two youths in the state. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had sent the Special Director of CBI along with some senior officers to… https://t.co/DI9OqjZEw8 pic.twitter.com/uIUPrrmfjR
— ANI (@ANI) October 1, 2023
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…
— N.Biren Singh (@NBirenSingh) October 1, 2023
Thereonwards, they were subsequently transported to Guwahati via a special flight, in coordination with local police and paramilitary forces. The CBI is noted to be intent on extracting information that may lead to the discovery of the victims’ bodies.
On the other hand, the Kuki Students Organisation (KSO) has condemned the arrests and claimed that the two male detainees were the president and general secretary of KSO Leimata block, and have asserted that they are not part of any murder case. They assert that the arrests are arbitrary and “driven by discrimination.” Furthermore, according to a KSO representative, the four individuals, along with two children, were traveling together from Leimata to Churachandpur town when they were intercepted and taken into custody by security forces.
The Kuki Students’ Organisation Delhi & NCR register its strong condemnation over the arrests of six Kuki-Zo civilians, including two minors by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the 1st of October 2023 between Kangvai and Molhoi village, Manipur. pic.twitter.com/P5PaQ8YQ1s
— KSO Delhi & NCR (@KSODelhi) October 2, 2023
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders forum has questioned the alleged swiftness in the arrests, aand ask why no actions has been taken for several incidents of violence against tribals in the state. The Kuki Women’s Organisation for Human Rights has further demanded the release of those arrested.
AN APPEAL FOR EQUAL JUSTICE
Dear Honourable PM @narendramodi
The Kuki Women Organisation for Human Rights (KWOHR) demands the safe and immediate release of the arrested individuals in connection with the alleged murder of 2 Meitei students in Manipur
The KWOHR is… pic.twitter.com/pwaOgfyx49
— Sumkawn (@Sumkawn) October 3, 2023
The two minor children who had accompanied the accused during their transit from Imphal to Guwahati have been handed over to the District Child Protection Officer, Kamrup Metro District. The children, aged nine and eleven, are the reportedly the offspring of one of the suspects.
In response to these events, the Committee on Tribal Unity based in Kangpokpi earlier announced plans to impose an emergency shutdown on National Highway-37.
Manipur: Total shutdown in #Kangpokpi hill district begins
The Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU) Sadar Hills begins its 15-hour total shutdown in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district from 6:00 a.m. this morning to mark the fifth-month unrest in #Manipur
Following the commencement of the… pic.twitter.com/AQZFMER41k
— The New Indian (@TheNewIndian_in) October 3, 2023
This is also to put pressure for the release of Satthang Kipgen, a teacher and resident of Bijang village in New Keithelmanbi who was arrested earlier.
The National Highway-37 is important as it connects Silchar in Assam with Imphal in Manipur and serves as one of the crucial routes for supplying essentials to the valley areas primarily inhabited by Meitei people. Another important highway, Dimapur-Imphal National Highway-2, also traverses through the hill districts of Manipur and has been susceptible to frequent blockades, further complicating the situation. NH-2 has also reportedly been blocked. The block, according to reports, is supposed to last till 9 PM today after the 48-hour ultimatum was given.
Meanwhile, the CBI and NIA have denied any accusations of partiality against any community, and have said that the arrests are purely based on evidence, and due course of law is being followed. As of official records, around 180 lives have been lost in Manipur ever since the conflict started in May, 2023.
Meanwhile, students of the Kuki-Zo community have demanded a change in administration, arguing that they cannot live under a Meitei dominated polity during a meeting with valley MLAs in Delhi earlier this week. However, their demands were denied. Earlier last month, N Biren Singh also tweeted in clarification that he was not resigning from his post.
However, what is important to note is that their demands reflected the rising undercurrent of dissatisfaction and anger against the government with regards to thee ongoing conflict which seems to be having no end in the near future. Manipur has had N Biren Singh as its. Chief Minister since the BJP formed a coalition government in 2017. Manipur remains on edge, with ethnic tensions reaching a critical height with each incident. The closure of schools and colleges in the state has been declared to continue till October 5. The mobile phone internet ban has been extended till October 7.