Days have turned into weeks and weeks into months however, justice remains elusive for the Meitei victims of enforced disappearances in connection with the prevailing communal violence, with their families, going back and forth, unwilling to give up the hope that their loved one is still alive somewhere, all the while enduring great suffering.
It has been over five months since the communal clash erupted in Manipur on May 3, claiming several innocent lives, leaving numerous injured and displaced even as properties were burned and destroyed.
Living in frozen grief, constant anguish and despair, for the victims' families, the passage of time comes as a devastating setback, snuffing out the flicker of hope they are holding onto. Since the clash broke out, over 20 Meiteis have been reported missing, presumed kidnapped and murdered by armed militants.
According to sources, the missing Meiteis are 38-year-old Thongam Shyam; 22-year-old Leichombam Suraj Meitei; 40-year-old Naorem Prakash Singh (they are reportedly missing since May 11); 47-year-old Atom Samarendra Singh (missing since May 6); Yumkhaibam Kirankumar Singh, 49 years (missing since May 6); 29-year-old Sagolsem Ngaleiba Meitei and 27-year-old Irengbam Chingkheinganba Meitei (both missing since July 4); 25-year-old Meisnam Malemnganba; 25-year-old Gurumayum Bony Sharma; 22-year-old Pukhrambam Abinash Singh (all three missing since July 6).
The list further includes 38-year-old Chirom Echa Meitei (missing since May 23); 24-year-old Haobijam Romiyo Singh (missing since May 19); 39-year-old Waikhom Nanao Meitei (missing since May 3); 37-year-old Leisangthem Langamba Meitei, alias Nanao (missing since May 6); 26-year-old Moirangthem Ingo Meitei (missing since May 3); 27-year-old Toijam Tomba Meitei (missing Since May 16); 34-year-old Moirangthem Dewan (missing since May 16); 64-year-old Laimayum Amarjit Sharma, alias Itaobi (missing Since May 30); 25-year-old Thokchom Ningthouremba (Missing Since July 1), 18-year-old Ngangom Nevy Meitei (Missing Since May 31).
Among the persons deemed as missing and presumed killed are two young students, namely Phijam Hemanjit Singh, 18 years, from Takyel Kolom Leikai and Hijam Luwangbi Linthoingambi, 17 years, from Tera Tongbram Leikai, Patsoi, both of whom went missing on July 6. When the photo of the duo and a picture purportedly showing their bodies surfaced on social media on September 25, it sparked widespread public outrage, condemnation and days of protests, demanding justice for the two students.
Immediately after, the state government vowed on the same day that swift and decisive action will be taken against all those involved in the alleged kidnapping and killing of Hemjit and Linthoingambi. Subsequently, a CBI team, led by its special Director, also landed in Manipur on September 27 to probe the incident.
And in a swift follow-up of the teen murder case, the CBI arrested four individuals, including a woman, in connection with the incident and airlifted them to Guwahati on October 1. The CBI also arrested an alleged mastermind behind the case on October 13. Manipur Chief Minister, lauding the CBI team for the swift action, has also assured further investigations to arrest other alleged culprits and asserted that the government will extend necessary assistance.
Nevertheless, family members and JAC against the brutal Killing of the two students have been exerting pressure on the state government to intensify measures to retrieve the bodies of the students and hand them over to the grieving family members, to enable them to perform their last rites, as per the Meitei tradition, but to no avail till date.
Likewise, the families of those forcibly disappeared victims, with a lingering flicker of hope, are persisting in their fight as justice remains elusive for their missing loved ones, and for them accessing justice goes beyond having a lawyer or a day in court.
Meanwhile, fellow Manipuris took to X (Twitter) pleading for the public’s help to find the missing Meiteis and bring them home. Hashtags including #BringHomeMeiteis #IStand4Manipur #ManipurViolence #SaveManipur are trending in the app.