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Storm gathers over rape

Imphal, March 15: Tremors reminiscent of July 2004 reverberated through Manipur after an Assam Rifles jawan was accused of raping a Kuki teenager.

The army, under which the Assam Rifles operates, hurriedly instituted a court of inquiry as the powerful Apunba Lup — formed after the Thangjam Manorama episode two-and-a-half-years ago —despatched a fact-finding team to the place where the alleged incident occurred.

The victim told police that she was washing clothes under a waterfall near a camp of the 38th Assam Rifles at Kotlien in Senapati district on Monday when the accused forced himself on her. Jawan Nungthui Gangmei, who is from Nagaland, was allegedly drunk and hit the girl on the head with a stone before raping her.

The FIR was registered the day after the incident.

Some villagers caught the accused jawan while he was coming out of a house near the Assam Rifles post yesterday, but he escaped.

A group of protesters, led by women, later tried to storm the post in a bid to trace him. The sentries on duty retaliated instantly, wounding several of the protesters.

Assam Rifles personnel allegedly assaulted two journalists, too. The All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union has decided to boycott the Assembly session, beginning tomorrow, in protest against the assault.

The Assam Rifles has never been a popular force in Manipur, its worst moment being the backlash triggered by the death of Manorama in the paramilitary force’s custody in 2004.

Military spokesman Lt Col Rajesh Mishra said the army would surely take appropriate action against Gangmei, if found guilty by the court of inquiry.

The officer confirmed that the accused had absconded on Monday, only to return to his post yesterday.

The unit to which Gangmei belongs is under the command of the 57 Mountain Division of the army.

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