Imphal, March 5: Shaken by the intensity of the anti-police protests that rocked Manipur after a slain militant’s girlfriend graphically described how she was allegedly tortured and sexually abused in custody, the Okram Ibobi Singh government last night suspended five commandos from the unit that had arrested her.
All five personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector of the Thoubal district commando unit, were asked not to leave station without permission till the completion of a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
The Ibobi Singh cabinet had met to take these decisions after an 18-hour general strike by various organisations against alleged police brutality.
The suspension of five personnel may have calmed the protesters, but it triggered a revolt in the Thoubal commando unit. Rallying round their colleagues, all commandos deployed in the district went on strike immediately. Senior officials convinced them to return to work today.
The disgruntled commandos told the media later that the allegations of torture and molestation were untrue.
Maibam Naobi Devi, 22, had been arrested a day after her alleged boyfriend ' People’s Liberation Army militant Kh. Vikash alias Romen ' was killed in an encounter in Thoubal district. She was going to the slain militant's house for the funeral when the commando unit took her into custody on charges of having played a role in the very incident in which Romen died.
Freed unconditionally by a court on Thursday, Naobi claimed she had been “sadistically” molested and tortured in custody.
The suspended commandos are assistant sub-inspector L. Chaoba and constables Md Nazir, Y. Punshi, Kh. Joseph and A. Noren.
Thoubal superintendent of police Y. Priyokumar Singh was transferred and replaced by his Bishenpur counterpart S. Ibobi Singh. Priyokumar’s new assignment is as the commanding officer of the 8th Manipur Rifles.
Setting the magisterial probe in motion, Thoubal deputy commissioner P. Vaiphei invited statements from witnesses and “interested parties” on Naobi’s allegations. He will accept statements till Wednesday and begin proceedings the next day.
Vaiphei said Naobi’s presence would be required at all hearings. The woman was medically examined at the forensic department of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences on Friday.
Women’s organisations from Naobi’s locality have set March 10 as the deadline for the government to punish the personnel who allegedly molested and tortured her. A relative of the victim has threatened self-immolation if the government fails to take action against the commandos.
Protesters in Imphal East district set two more government offices ablaze last night.
Manipur had witnessed a similar agitation after the death of a woman, Thangjam Manorama, in Assam Rifles’ custody in July 2004.
The intensity of the agitation increased after a dozen middle-aged women staged a naked protest in front of the Assam Rifles’ erstwhile headquarters, the Kangla Fort in Imphal.