At least 45 students were injured in Manipur's Imphal Valley in police action on Tuesday during protests over the killings of two youths who disappeared in July.
Students from schools and colleges of Imphal Valley were protesting after photos of the corpses of the two youths surfaced on social media. The photos soon went viral and led to protests.
In response to these developments, the Manipur government ordered the closure of schools for the next two days and suspended mobile internet services for the next five days across the state.
The news of the deaths of the two youths and injuries during protests are the latest flare-ups in Manipur. The state has been in the grips of ethnic violence between the state's Meitei and tribal communities since May 3 when clashes erupted after a tribal rally opposing the proposed scheduled tribe (ST) status to the Meiteis. Since then, at least 175 people have been killed and several thousands have been displaced across the state.
What we know of the deaths of two youths?
The two youths, identified as 20-years-old Phijam Hemjit and 17-years-old Hijam Linthoingambi, were allegedly abducted in July and were untraceable since.
The protests occurred after photos of their corpses surfaced and went viral on social media and messaging platforms. The outrage led to protests.
The protesting students from schools and colleges across the Imphal Valley were demanding the arrests of the guilty.
After the photos of the bodies of the two surfaced on Monday, the Manipur government asked people to exercise restraint and allow authorities to investigate the "kidnapping and killing" of them, reported PTI.
The last location of the mobiles of the two deceased students traced at Lamdan near the winter flower tourist spot in Manipur's Churachandpur district, according to officials cited by PTI.
The Manipur government has said that the case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI is investigating several cases related to Manipur ethnic violence, including the one related to the sexual assault and naked parade of two tribal women by a mob, the video of which went viral ahead of the Monsoon Session of the Parliament and led to the nationwide condemnation.
"The state police, in collaboration with the central security agencies, are actively investigating the case to determine the circumstances surrounding their disappearance and to identify the perpetrators who murdered the two students. The security forces have also started the search operation to nab the perpetrators," said Manipur government in a statement.
The statement further said that the Manipur government assures people that "swift and decisive action will be taken against all those involved in the kidnapping and killing of Phijam Hemjit and Hijam Linthoingambi". It added that the Chief Minister N Biren Singh-led government is committed to ensuring justice and will impose severe punishment on any perpetrator found responsible for the heinous crime.
Security personnel have been put on alert, and additional measures taken to prevent any incident after the photos of the students have gone viral, a senior officer told PTI.
45 students injured and hospitalised after police action
At least 45 students have suffered injuries and are undergoing treatment in hospitals after police action on protests on Tuesday.
During the protests on Tuesday, the police fired tear gas shells and baton-charged the protesters, reported PTI.
The protesters clashed with the police near Sanjenthong in Imphal East district when security forces stopped them from advancing towards the chief minister’s secretariat in Imphal, according to PTI.
❗️Several students injured in protest against cold blooded murder of their classmate Linthoingambi Hijam and Phijam Hemanjit #CrimesAgainstManipur#Manipur#ZRAXposed#KukiWarCrimes#Meitei#Justice4LinthoiHemanjit#ManipurFightsBack— Meitei Heritage Society (@meiteiheritage) September 26, 2023
❗️Why law Enforcement exist only in… pic.twitter.com/RiJZlxd4ek
The PTI reported that 33 students were being treated at two private hospitals and 12 were under treatment at two government facilities.
"Students also took out rallies at Uripok, Old Lambulane, Singjamei in Imphal West district demanding arrest of those involved in the killing of the two youths. Similar clashes between students and security forces have been reported from Thoubal, Kakching and Bishnupur districts," reported PTI.
Schools closed and internet suspended
Following the news of two students' death and protests on Tuesday, the Manipur government ordered the closure of schools for the next two days and ordered the suspension of mobile internet services for the next five days across the state.
An order issued by the Manipur Home Department cites the purported disinformation and rumours spread through social media and messaging platforms as the reason for the suspension of mobile internet services.
"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 platform such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc...The State Government decides to suspend/curb the mobile internet data services, internet/data services through VPN in the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Manipur for 5(five) days with immediate effect till 7:45 PM of 01-10-2023 (sic)," said the government order signed by Manipur Joint Secretary (Home) Mayengbam Veto Singh.
The usage of the virtual private network (VPN), which has also been banned, allows users to bypass any restrictions imposed on accessing certain websites in a geographic zone. The VPNs also offer users anonymity as a VPN masks the users' real location and connects them to the internet through servers in other locations.