Imphal, Feb. 17: Hands tied behind their backs and blindfolded, three Manipur government employees were found bludgeoned to death at a deserted place in Senapati district this morning.
The bodies of sub-divisional officer (SDO) Thingnam Kishan Singh, his official driver Aribam Rajen Sharma, and a chainman, Yumnam Token Singh, all from Imphal West district, were found on the bank of a canal at Taphou, 6km south of Senapati police station.
The bodies were spotted by villagers who then informed police.
The police said all three were hit on the head with stones and other weapons. A bloodstained small boulder and a blood-soaked spade were found on the spot. This is the most brutal form of murder, a police official said.
The three employees of the state revenue department, posted at Kasom Khullen in Ukhrul district, went missing since February 14. They had left the district headquarters in a Gypsy for Kasom Khullen, in the interior of the district, in view of a visit by works minister T. Ranjit Singh that day. They were accompanied by three other officials, Ramsing Tangkhul, Ramthing Tangkhul and Khamkhasing Zimik, also posted in Ukhrul.
The group, however, did not turn up when the minister and his team reached Kasom Khullen.
A relative of the SDO, Shantikumar Singh, said: Kishan left home on Friday. He was supposed to come back the next day. When he failed to come back, we went to Ukhrul yesterday to find out (why he had not returned). Officials at the district headquarters said they were missing.
The police said the whereabouts of the other three employees were still unknown and the vehicle the officials took to Kasom Khullen had also not been recovered.
The police could not name any group or individual behind the abduction and murder, but suspect that a hill-based militant group could be behind the incident.
We have registered a case at Ukhrul police station. We are investigating the case. There is no clue to the identity of the group or perpetrators, R. Sudan, SDO, Ukhrul, said over phone.
The families and relatives of the three victims formed a joint action committee during a meeting at the SDOs residence in Nagamapal in Imphal city this evening. They demanded an inquiry into the killings and punishment to the culprits.
The convenor of the committee, Sapam Subhankar, said they would call a 48-hour statewide strike from midnight tonight. The committee alleged that NSCN (Isak-Muivah) cadres were behind the incident.
Protesters also blocked Singjamei Road and Nagamapal Road, the localities of the other two deceased this evening.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh reviewed the situation with top security officials and the cabinet this evening.