The CBI on Sunday arrested four people in connection with its probe into the cases of two missing Manipuri students who are believed to have been killed, officials said.
Phijam Hemanjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi, a girl aged 17 years, had gone missing on July 6. Photos purportedly showing their bodies surfaced on September 25, leading to violent protests, mainly by students.
In a joint operation with the Manipur Police and the central forces, the CBI arrested two men, Paominlun Haokip and Smalsawm Haokip, and two women, Lhingneichong Baitekuki and Tinneilhing Henthang, in connection with its cases registered on August 23.
The central probe agency has brought the four accused to Guwahati, officials said.
"The arrested accused will be produced before a competent court in Guwahati, designated as per the orders of the Supreme Court. Two children, who accompanied the arrested accused during their transit from Imphal to Guwahati, have been handed over to the district child protection officer of Kamrup metro district for their welfare, protection and care," a CBI spokesperson said.
Based on the complaints of the victims' parents, the two cases related to the missing students were earlier registered with the Imphal Police and Lamphel Police on July 8 and July 19, respectively. A team of CBI officials, led by the agency's Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar, reached Manipur on September 27 to monitor and help the probe.
In Manipur's Imphal, Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced the arrests and said that maximum punishment would be ensured by the government.
The CBI arrested four people from the Henglep area of Churachandpur district in connection with the killings. In the operation leading to their arrest, personnel of the Army, paramilitary forces such as the BSF and CRPF, and the state police played a major role, the Manipur chief minister said.
Shortly before holding a press conference, he said in a post on X, "As the saying goes, one may abscond after committing a crime, but they cannot escape the long arm of the law. We are committed to ensuring maximum punishment, including capital punishment, for the heinous crime they have committed." The government will support the CBI in its investigation and all those involved in the killing of the two youths will be arrested, the chief minister said.
Violent protests by students rocked the Manpir capital on September 26 and 27. A mob tried to attack the ancestral house of Chief Minister Singh on the night of September 28, but security forces foiled the attempt. Another mob vandalised the deputy commissioner's office in Imphal West district.
Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey visited the family members of the two slain youths on September 29.
More than 180 people lost their lives and several hundreds were injured since the ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals -- Nagas and Kukis -- constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.
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