Imphal, Dec. 11: The family of former Manipur chief minister Rishang Keishing today confirmed reports that his youngest son had been taken hostage by suspected militants during a trip to Ukhrul three days ago.
However, no complaint about the abduction had been lodged with the police till this evening.
Victor Keishing was abducted on Monday from Sinkap village of Ukhrul district. The purpose of his visit was to inspect a suspension bridge built with money from the MP’s Local Area Development Fund and take stock of the activities of the Rishang Foundation, an NGO managed by the Keishings.
The Rishang Foundation owns a food-processing unit near Litan village in the same district. The unit closed shop before the elections in February, when a militant outfit demanded Rs 20 lakh in illegal taxes.
A member of the family said Victor had been whisked away by “unidentified people who could well be militants”. He had left Imphal for Ukhrul along with a friend and his driver.
A senior police official told The Telegraph that his department had received “unofficial reports” about the abduction. He said the Keishing family had not lodged a formal complaint probably because “they may be wanting to negotiate with the abductors directly without anyone else’s interference”.
The official said the militant outfit that had ambushed a police team led by Ukhrul superintendent of police S. Manglemjao on December 8 could be behind Victor’s abduction. Three policemen had been killed and three more seriously injured in the ambush near New Heaven, 32 km from Imphal, on the Imphal-Ukhrul road.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh claimed he had only heard “rumours” of the abduction of Keishing’s youngest son.
Sources said Keishing, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP, was trying to establish contact with his son’s abductors instead of relying on the police to rescue him. He had recently claimed that a militant outfit wanted a huge amount of money from the Rishang Foundation.
Victor is seen as his father’s political heir, given his experience of managing election campaigns and implementing programmes drawn up for Phungyar constituency of Ukhrul district. He is the fourth well-known person to have been abducted in Manipur this year.
Militants had abducted Chandel deputy commissioner Yambem Thamkishore Singh in May and two journalists in October. All three were released unharmed after negotiations. Early this month, two persons had made an abortive attempt to kidnap the four-year-old son of state minister Franscis Ngajokpa from a kindergarten school in the state capital.
Over the past year, Keishing has been in the news for periodic outbursts against militant outfits and a section of politicians who allegedly patronise them. He had written to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi in June, complaining about legislators allegedly backed by insurgents finding their way into Ibobi Singh’s ministry. He pointed fingers at the Samata Party, claiming one of its MLAs had won the election with militant support.
Keishing himself lost an election for the first time this year. After representing Phungyar in the Assembly ever since Manipur attained statehood, he met his match in Wungnaoshang Keishing of the Manipur State Congress Party. The veteran Congressman’s rival polled 900 odd votes more to wrest the seat.
The former chief minister said he lost the election because of the NSCN (I-M)’s campaign against him and the administration’s alleged failure to make adequate security arrangements in his constituency. “NSCN (I-M) cadre intimidated the voters and asked them not to vote for the Congress. They harassed Congress activists and captured booths,” he said.