Imphal, July 11: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today announced that a special investigation team, led by superintendent of police Ukhrul K. Kabib, was conducting search operations to trace contractor Irungbam Irabanta, 38, who has been missing for more than a month after reportedly going to a meet NSCN (I-M) cadres in Ukhrul.
Irabanta, a contractor, is a resident of Nongdam in Imphal East district. He supplies sand and stone to Ansal construction company, which is constructing the spillway of the Thoubal multi-purpose project.
Irabanta’s relatives suspect the NSCN (I-M)’s hand in his disappearance.
On May 26, he allegedly received a call from a friend in Ukhrul, identified as Winner Tangkhul, who told him that the NSCN (I-M) men were ready to meet him.
According to the complaint lodged by his wife, Madhubala Devi, at Lamlai police station, Irabanta left his house in a Maruti Gypsy on May 27. He said he was on his way to meet cadres of the NSCN (I-M) in Ukhrul over some matter.
On the morning of May 28, he sent a text to his wife that said he was negotiating with two NSCN (I-M) cadres.
After that there was no trace of him. His cellphone was switched off from the afternoon of May 28.
Irabanta’s relatives visited Ukhrul to look for him. But their efforts failed and on June 8, Madhubala Devi lodged a complaint at Lamlai police station.
Opposition member and Trinamul Congress MLA Th. Shyamkumar laid out all these facts before the Assembly today and called for all-out efforts by the government to find him.
Shyamkumar said Irabanta’s family feared that he might already be dead. He also suggested that the relatives have a “strong suspicion” that the NSCN (I-M) was behind the disappearance.
“NSCN (I-M) cadres murdered sub-divisional officer Thingnam Kishan and his two subordinates (all from Imphal) in Ukhrul recently. Now another person is missing. This is a very serious matter and unless handled tactfully it could whip up communal tension in the state,” he said.
In his reply, Ibobi Singh announced that a special investigation team had been constituted to trace the man. The delay in reporting the matter to the police had hampered the investigation but all-out efforts were on by the special team, he said.
“So far, we have not found any evidence of the NSCN (I-M)’s involvement. However, all the police stations have been alerted and the district superintendents of police have been notified for information,” Ibobi Singh said.
The chief minister also said if necessary, his government would seek help from NGOs of Ukhrul in the investigation.