May 2: Bangalore police have, based on prima facie evidence, “booked” two students for the alleged murder of Manipuri student Loitam Richard who was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his college hostel room on April 18.
Apparently bowing to tremendous pressure from the Northeast community, and backed by people in the city, the police yesterday “booked” Vishal Banerjee from Chattisgargh and Sayed Afsal Ali from Jharkhand for murder.
However, the arrest of the students, if any, would depend on the findings in the forensic lab report that could take three more weeks to be presented.
Confirming the development, D. Prakash, the superintendent of police (Bangalore rural) said the police would have to wait for more evidence to make arrests. He said the questioning of students of the Acharya NRV College of Architecture has unearthed more information like the bike accident that Richard was involved in with Banerjee.
He was treated for minor injuries on April 15 at a nearby private hospital as confirmed by the college hostel warden S.Sudhakar.
The 19-year-old Manipuri student was punched in the face by the two following what is believed to be a brawl over a TV remote control as an IPL cricket match was on. He was found dead the following day in his room with several tell-tale evidence of an assault.
But the campaigners who brought the case into the public domain by holding protest meetings are not thoroughly convinced about not arresting the two who are now charged with murder. “Aren’t they supposed to be arrested since it is a murder case?” asked Monika Khangembam, the lead campaigner in the city.
“Yes it is a major step forward from ‘unnatural death’ (as almost written off earlier) to booking the two for murder,” she told The Telegraph. “We now hope that the forensic lab report comes fast and give a clear direction to the case.”
The protesters who staged a massive sit-in on Sunday have decided to keep the pressure on until the law takes its own course.
Karnataka chief minister D. Sadananda Gowda asked the state police to register a proper FIR in Loitam’s case today.
The chief minister told Sunil Deodhar, the national convener of the BJP’s North East India Sampark Cell, that he had directed the police to take proper action, when he called on Gowda on Monday night to urge a thorough investigation into the case.
Deodhar called on the chief minister after a nationwide cry for justice.
“Gowda assured Deodhar that the investigation will be foolproof and there will be no loopholes. The inspector-general of police (intelligence), Gopal Hosur, has asked the local superintendent of police to file a case of murder against unknown persons,” a statement issued here by the BJP’s Manipur unit said.
Deodhar, along with Omprakash, the president of the Manipuri Meitei Association, Bangalore, and Tiken Singh, the president of the Manipuri Students’ Association, Bangalore, also met Karnataka home minister R. Ashok and requested him to take the case seriously.
In Imphal, medical students of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences today staged a daylong sit-in at the institute complex, demanding punishment of those responsible for the death of Richard.
“We demand a CBI inquiry into the case and punishment for the culprits. This is not for the first time students from the Northeast were singled out and ill-treated in other cities and institutions. The Manipur government should mount pressure on both the Centre and the Karnataka government for fast investigation and prompt justice,” a student, who took part in the sit-in, demanded.