Imphal, Oct. 15: Manipur today witnessed a fresh public outcry over yet another alleged instance of extra-judicial killing by the army last night.
Residents of Irong Chesaba in Imphal West district erupted in anger after the army allegedly killed a student of the locality while retaliating against a militant attack last night. The army, however, has denied the claim.
Residents held a protest demonstration in the locality and formed a joint action committee (JAC) today to take up the matter with the state government. The JAC demanded that punishment be meted out to the personnel responsible for the death of Sabir Khan, a Class XI student of a local higher secondary school.
Sabir’s father Salim Khan said his son left home with the victim’s aunt, Dulalei Khan, for a walk last night. He was allegedly intercepted by army personnel, who shot him dead from point blank range.
Assam Rifles spokesman Col. L.M. Pant, however, maintained that the boy was killed by a stray bullet fired by militants and the army was not responsible for his death.
The spokesman said a column of the 22 Maratha Light Infantry was patrolling Irong Cheshaba area when militants moving in a car fired at the patrol party around 7.55pm. The militants used bombs and sophisticated weapons but there was no casualty among the army patrol, he said.
Col. Pant added that since the site of the attack was a thickly populated residential area, the troops did not retaliate, as they feared that civilian casualties could occur. The troops took up position but did not fire a single shot, he said.
The militants fled in the same car, which was found abandoned a little distance away later in the night.
“The soldiers and a police team which came later in the night conducted a search operation in the area and the student’s body was recovered. Four empty cases of AK rifles and one live lethod bomb shell were also found,” said Col. Pant.
However, the residents of Irong Chesaba are not convinced by the army’s claim. In protest against the incident, all shops of the area remained closed since this morning.
“Eyewitnesses saw the soldiers take away my son after the alleged militant attack. My son was first caught and then beaten up. He apparently died during the thrashing and the soldiers shot him later,” the victim’s father claimed.
Dulalei said she was walking with Sabir when army personnel took him away. “Some personnel took him away, while I was taken to a different place and forced to lie down on the ground by some other personnel. I heard gunshots nearby after some time,” the victim’s aunt said.
The JAC is likely to submit a memorandum to chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh later tonight or tomorrow demanding justice.