Normal life has been crippled in Manipur’s Churachandpur district after the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) called an indefinite shutdown from Monday, 2 October, in the tribal-dominated district in protest against the arrests in the alleged murder of two missing Meitei students.
On Sunday, 1 October, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the case, had arrested four persons – three men, one woman – in connection with the case.
Who are they? Four of the six accused have been identified as Wohkhogin Baite, Paominlun Haokip, S Malsawn Haokip, and Lhingneichong Baite. Two minors, whose names The Quint has withheld – aged 11 and 9 – who were accompanying the adults were handed over to the district child protection officer of Kamrup Metropolitan in Assam during the transit of the accused.
The arrests were made in Churachandpur, and all the accused were taken to Guwahati in Assam for further investigation.
What the CM said: Speaking to the media on Sunday, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, "We were not able to catch them [the accused]. But Union Home Minister Amit Shah sent a team of CBI officials. After they came here, with the support of the Indian Army, paramilitary forces, Assam Rifles, and the state police, four accused persons were arrested. This is a big achievement."
The accused persons are allegedly members of the militant group, Kuki National Front, as per the CM.
What is the case? Last week, the photos of the bodies of 17-year-old Hijam Linthoingambi and 20-year-old Phijam Hemjit, who had gone missing on 6 July, surfaced on social media, days after internet services were restored in violence-hit Manipur.
One of the widely circulated photos showed the two students sitting on the ground, in what appears to be a forest, with two armed men in the background. Another photo showed them lying on the ground purportedly after they were shot dead.
The photos were taken on 8 July, two days after the two students went missing.
What did ITLF say? Immediately after the arrests, ITLF, an apex body of tribals in Manipur, on Sunday night called the indefinite shutdown in Churachandpur district. Demanding the release of those arrested within 48 hours, the body added that, “failing which more intense agitation will follow in all hill districts of Manipur”.
“All boundary areas with the Meitei dominated areas are being sealed. No one will be allowed to enter or leave the buffer zones. All government offices are closed from today (Monday),” said Ginza Vualzong, senior leader and spokesman for ITLF.
The police said that all commercial and business activities have come to a stand still as public vehicles have gone off the road, while government and non-government offices and financial institutions remained shut in view of the shutdown in Churachandpur district, reported IANS.
Why you should read on: The photos triggered widespread protests in the state's Imphal West district, which led to another internet ban in the region.
During one such protest on 27 September, clashes erupted between hundreds of Meitei students and the security forces, with over 120 students suffering injuries. The security forces allegedly fired several rounds of tear gas shells and smoke bombs in an attempt to disperse the crowd.