New Delhi: A team led by Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is set to arrive in Imphal on Wednesday to probe the reported “kidnapping and killing” of two students who went missing in the northeastern state on July 6, according to reliable sources. The development comes after the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Manipur government. Heading the team alongside Ajay Bhatnagar is Joint Director Ghanshyam Upadhyay, who is currently stationed in Imphal, as per the sources.
The team consists of seasoned officers specializing in special crime, crime scene reconstruction, interrogation, and technical surveillance. It will also include experts from the CBI’s distinguished Central Forensic Science Laboratory, sources have disclosed. Images of the bodies of the two missing students – Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi (17) – started circulating on social media on Monday.
One of the pictures purportedly displayed the students in the company of two armed individuals, while the other showed two lifeless bodies. Authorities had earlier stated that the whereabouts of the two students were unknown, and their mobile phones were switched off. Police had traced the last location of their mobile handsets to Lamdan, near the winter flower tourist spot in Churachandpur district.
Reacting to the distressing news, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh assured the public in a post on X, stating, “In light of the distressing news that emerged yesterday regarding the tragic demise of the missing students, I want to assure the people of the state that both the state and central government are closely working together to nab the perpetrators.” Singh emphasized the commitment of the authorities to swiftly resolve the matter with the presence of CBI officers in the state. He added, “I have been constantly in touch with Hon’ble Union Home Minister Shri @AmitShah ji to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
In light of the distressing news that emerged yesterday regarding the tragic demise of the missing students, I want to assure the people of the State that both the state and central government are closely working together to nab the perpetrators.
To further expedite this crucial…
— N.Biren Singh (@NBirenSingh) September 26, 2023
Security personnel have been placed on high alert, and additional measures have been implemented to prevent any incidents following the dissemination of the deceased students’ images, noted a senior officer.
The government has reassured the public that “swift and decisive action will be taken against all those involved in the kidnapping and killing of Phijam Hemjit and Hijam Linthoingambi.”
Internet Services Suspended For 5 Days
The Manipur government has once again imposed a ban on internet services for the next five days. Mobile internet services, which were suspended due to ethnic violence in Manipur since early May, were restored on September 23.
In response to the situation, hundreds of students marched towards N Biren Singh’s residence, but security forces intercepted them, deploying tear gas shells and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd. Over 40 students, including girls, were injured.
A directive from the Manipur Home Department emphasized the steps being taken to prevent the imminent threat to life, damage to public and private property, and widespread disruptions to public tranquillity.
“In view of the prevailing law and order situation in the State of Manipur, the State Government views very seriously with utmost sensitivity the reported spread of disinformation, false rumours, and other types of violent activities through various social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., on electronic equipment like tablets, computers, mobile phones, etc., and sending bulk SMS likely facilitating and/or mobilizing mobs of agitators and demonstrators, which may cause loss of life and/or damage to public/private property or aggravate the law and order situation in the state,” stated an official notification.
The suspension order regarding mobile internet data services and internet/data services through VPN in the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Manipur is effective immediately and will last for five days, ending at 7:45 PM on October 1, the notification confirmed.
Any individual found violating these orders will face legal action, as per the notification.
Manipur has been experiencing unrest since May 3, following protests by the Kuki and Meitei communities against the High Court’s directive for the state government to contemplate including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. Only STs are permitted to purchase land in hilly areas.
The dominant Meitei community, occupying the Imphal Valley and nearby areas, has sought ST status due to their growing population and increased land requirements, enabling them to acquire lands in hilly areas.