Fresh violence has erupted in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur, bordering Myanmar, where three months of ethnic violence between Meitei lowlanders and Kuki hill tribesmen has left nearly 100 dead. More than 70,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the state.
The police crackdown was triggered after Imphal students took to the streets inprotest at the emergence of photographs of two students who had been missing since 6 July and were allegedly abducted and murdered, identified as Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi (17). The image of the two teenagers, which appeared on social media and immediately went viral, shows them before they were killed. Its spread sent shockwaves through the community by late Monday evening.
On Wednesday, during the course of the demonstration, the State Police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) charged the students (mostly girls), firing pellet bullets and throwing tear gas and smoke bombs. The youths, who took to the streets to protest near Sanjenthong (in Imphal East district), demanded that the perpetrators of the murder of the two Metei teenagers, allegedly at the hands of Kuki militants, be identified.
As many as 45 young people were injured in the clashes, several of whom have been hospitalised. The students, shouting ‘we want justice’, were reportedly heading towards the residence of Chief Minister Biren N Singh. Other similar demonstrations took place at Uripok, Old Lambulane and Singjamei (in Imphal West district).
Lanthengba, a student leader leading the rally, told reporters, “We demand that the killers of the two students be arrested within 24 hours and their bodies be brought out for last rites. We also want to meet the Chief Minister to address our grievances. How can we continue with our studies when our friends and classmates are being murdered in cold blood?”
The police tried to calm the situation by announcing that “arrangements are being made to enable the student representatives to meet both the Chief Minister and the Governor”. While authorities suspended internet services ‘with immediate effect’ until 1 October.
As tensions continue, in Imphal, people are still demanding justice for the students and immediate action from the Government. The investigation has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the CBI director would arrive in Imphal on Wednesday with a special team to take up the case.
Foreign News Desk/AV
Photo and video by David Mayum (from Imphal, Manipur, India)