| Policemen carry Elizabeth’s body in Imphal. (UB Photos)
Imphal, Nov. 12: Manipur minister Francis Ngajokpa’s abducted daughter was found today, still in her school uniform but lifeless and cruelly stuffed into a gunny bag that also contained her textbooks and tiffin box.
The recovery of Lungnila Elizabeth’s body from a swamp, eight days after she was abducted while coming out of her school, sent shivers down the spine of even the most hardened person in a state where abductions and killings are common. The victim was just seven years old.
Anticipating an outpouring of anger, the Okram Ibobi Singh government clamped indefinite curfew in the Greater Imphal area with effect from 2.30 pm, barely two hours after Elizabeth’s body was found at Sadokpam village. Two village boys spotted the gunny bag while cutting trees. The site is not far from Imphal’s Little Flower School, where the victim used to study.
On being informed that a girl’s body had been found, teachers and students of the school rushed to the spot and identified it as that of Elizabeth. Her parents reached the area soon after and gave the confirmation.
A police official said Elizabeth might have been strangulated with the tie she was wearing. The outcome of the post-mortem is not known, but one of the doctors involved in it disclosed that the level of decomposition suggested she was killed a couple of days after being abducted.
Elizabeth’s mother Eastland Francis collapsed on seeing the body of her daughter. She had fervently appealed to the abductors to release the girl on humanitarian grounds.
The police have yet to ascertain the identity of the group that abducted Elizabeth for ransom. The chief minister had initially pointed a finger at the Kuki National Front (KNF), saying a caller claiming to be a leader of the militant group informed Ngajokpa’s family about the abduction and demanded a Rs 10-lakh ransom.
The KNF, however, issued a statement denying that any of its members had a hand in the abduction.
Public works department minister Gaikhangam, also the spokesperson for the ruling Secular Progressive Front, said later that some suspects had been rounded up for interrogation and that the police would not rest until the people responsible for the abduction and killing were brought to book. “The government strongly condemns the inhuman act of killing a very young girl after abduction. All-out efforts are on to arrest the culprits and punishment will be meted out in a befitting manner,” he said.
On whether the police had ascertained if militants were behind the incident, Gaikhangam said it would be inappropriate to name any group while the inquiry was in progress.
An unofficial source claimed Elizabeth’s captors took Rs 5 lakh from her family before killing her and a second instalment yesterday. “The abductors were paid Rs 5 lakh through mediators a day after the girl was taken hostage. They killed her after taking the money, but demanded more, saying she would be freed.”
Parties and student organisations described the killing as an act of terrorism.
The United Committee, Manipur, said all educational institutions and markets would be closed tomorrow as a mark of mourning. The All Manipur Students Union separately announced a general strike from midnight till 6 pm tomorrow.
It said all forms of entertainment in the state would remain suspended for five days.