Four people were arrested in connection with the abduction and killing of two Meitei students, whose photographs sparked off a fresh round of protests in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, officials said Monday.
The arrested individuals, two men and two women, have been flown out of Manipur to Guwahati in the neighbouring state of Assam.
“I’m pleased to share that some of the main culprits responsible for the abduction and murder of Phijam Hemanjit and Hijam Linthoingambi have been arrested from Churachandpur today,” Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said in a brief statement on Sunday evening.
“We are committed to ensuring maximum punishment, including capital punishment, for the heinous crime they have committed.”
According to officials, a special team of India’s premier investigating agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken the arrested persons by air to Guwahati.
The two students Hemanjit, 20, and Linthoingambi, 17, went missing in July when the ethnic violence in Manipur was at its peak. The photographs of their bodies surfaced on social media recently, days after internet services were restored in the state after a four-month blanket ban.
Over 50 students were injured during massive protests last week against the killings in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. The protesters demanding justice for the victims tried to march towards the Chief Minister’s residence.
Manipur has been on edge since May 3 when large-scale violence broke out in the state during a tribal protest over the inclusion of the non-tribal Meiteis community for a scheduled tribe status designated for disadvantaged socio-economic groups which gives them reservations in education and government jobs.
The ethnic clashes have displaced 60,000. The mobs in the state have been resorting to vandalism and arson targeting houses and shops.
As per figures released by police in mid-September, 175 people have been killed, 1118 injured and 33 reported missing since May 3.
According to police, 96 bodies were still lying unclaimed in morgues of different hospitals in the state.
Police said 5,172 cases of arson have been reported, which includes 4,786 houses and 386 religious places.