Life cripples in Manipur district after tribal body calls bandh against arrest of 4 Kuki-Zo people

Imphal: Normal life has been crippled in Manipur’s Churachandpur district after the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) called an indefinite shutdown from Monday in the tribal-dominated district in protest against the “arrest of four Kuki-Zo people, including two women”.

Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had said on Sunday that the four suspects in the murder of two young students have been arrested by the CBI and other security forces.

“On the direction of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, a special CBI team led by the agency’s Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar, along with five officers, have been camping in Manipur since September 27.

“A combined team of the CBI, Army, Assam Rifles, and state security forces have arrested four suspects from Churachandpur district in connection with the murder of the two young students. This is a major breakthrough in the heinous case,” Singh had told the media.

Immediately after the arrests, ITLF, an apex body of tribals in Manipur, on Sunday night called the indefinite shutdown in Churachandpur district.

The ITLF has demanded the release the four people within 48 hours, “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.

Strongly condemning the CBI action, the ITLF on Monday said that four people were arrested by the central agency without the knowledge of local authorities and there were no women police officers and no juvenile police unit, as required by law when a secret operation was undertaken in the case related to the disappearance of two Meitei students.

“The arrests came less than a week after the surfacing of photos that seem to show the dead bodies of the two students. If the CBI can act with such swiftness, why has it not arrested anyone in more heinous cases, like the rape and murder of two tribal girls in Imphal, the burning of a 7-year-old tribal boy along with his mother and aunt, the torture and beheading of a tribal youth, and so many other acts of atrocities against tribals? And what about the thousands of weapons and lakhs of ammunition which have been looted (distributed?) in the Imphal valley?”

The tribal body added: “Does the Central government think violence and shooting can stop without the retrieval of these weapons? Incredulously, the Chief Minister had on Sunday said publicly that the “main culprits” in the students’ murder case have been arrested, even before any questioning (forget about a trial). Tribals, it seems, are guilty until proven innocent.”

Manipur witnessed massive students’ agitations last week to protest the killing of 17-year-old girl student Hijam Linthoingambi and 20-year-old Phijam Hemjit, who hailed from Bishnupur district and had gone missing on July 6 during the height of ethnic violence. Their photographs were circulated on different social media platforms on September 25.

At least 100 students, including girls, were injured during the agitations after they clashed with the security forces, who prevented them from marching towards the Chief Minister’s bungalow.

In view of the students’ agitations, the state government has shut all schools in the state till October 5 besides re-imposing the ban on mobile internet services till October 6.

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