| A guard frisks a passerby in Imphal on Wednesday. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Imphal, March 19: Manipur police today held back 100-odd migrant workers who were about to fly the coop, but failed to stop militants from killing one more settler.
Three trucks with migrant workers huddled at the back were headed out of Imphal when a police team stopped the vehicles and persuaded the group not to leave. “We appealed to the migrant labourers not to leave Manipur at this juncture. They listened to us and agreed to stay back,” chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said in the Assembly later.
The trigger for the exodus was the death of another migrant in an attack last night. A police team found the bullet-riddled body of 40-year-old Kabir, alias Govind, about 25km south of Kumbi police station around 8am. The victim used to make a living collecting and selling scrap iron at Pombikhok Chingya in Bishnupur district.
The toll in the spate of attacks on settlers since Sunday stands at 15. Yesterday, militants drove groups of migrant workers to three locations in Imphal East and shot five of them. Two more men, both bakery workers, were shot inside a rented house at Kakching Khunyai in Thoubal district around 4.50pm.
A body found under a bridge at Minuthong in the state capital this morning was also thought to be that of a victim but the police said the man, Najib Ali, may have died of drug overdose.
The chief minister announced ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh to the families of each of those killed by militants. He visited the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal last night and gave Rs 5,000 each to two injured workers undergoing treatment there.
Hounded by the Opposition to spell out the steps taken by the government to punish the guilty, Ibobi Singh said the government was trying to confirm the identity of the armed group responsible for the killings. The chief minister said he feared a backlash against Manipuris studying or working elsewhere in the country and had already spoken to the chief secretaries and police chiefs of some states about it.
The selective killings in Manipur rocked Parliament, too. Legislators of the Janata Dal (United) demanded Union home minister Shivraj Patil’s removal, adds PTI.
The Revolutionary People’s Front and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, issued a statement condemning the killings. Lily Leima, the assistant secretary of the outfit’s communication and publicity wing, said the massacre of innocents was “not a revolutionary act”.
Night curfew remained in force in the four valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur.