In an unfortunate turn of events, the bodies out of four persons who went missing at Sabal Maning Ching in Bishnupur district on Wednesday have been recovered, while one remains untraceable.
The body of Ahanthem Dara Singh, 55, who is presumed dead, is yet to be found. All four individuals hailed from Kumbi Terakhong Akasoi in Bishnupur district. The body of Thoudam Ibomcha, 52, and Thoudam Anand, 25, who are father and son were found in the evening of Wednesday itself. The body of Oinam Romen, 45, was found in the early hours of Thursday.
The search for the bodies were initiated after photos of bodies of the missing individuals surfaced online. Surprisingly, the bodies of the three individuals were found only a few hundred meters away from the Mahar Regiment camp at Sabal Maning Ching.
According to the locals, Sabal Maning Ching has been an age-old spot for Meitei residents in the region to gather firewood. According to family members, the four individuals went to pick firewood at Sabal Maning Ching around 10.30 am on Wednesday.
They pointed out that Meiteis stopped going into Sabal Maning Ching after the conflict erupted as the area lies close to a few Kuki villages.
“We resumed gathering firewood at Sabal Maning Ching around three months back. We had informed the Mahar regiment and they too had given consent, as the area falls in close proximity to their camp” a villager stated.
Meanwhile, the brother-in-law of Thoudam Ibomcha told the media that all four individuals were regular wage earners with humble backgrounds. “Thoudam Anand is a young father who left behind a four-month-old baby girl. His mother and wife are in shock and so are the families of other individuals,” he said.
He stated that the families came to know about the horrific incident only after videos of the ordeal surfaced online. After the video went viral, the village volunteers initiated the search in which the bodies of the father son duo were found, he added.
He questioned how such an incident could take place right under the nose of the Mahar Regiment. “The area is a sensitive zone as such security measures are tight but such a slip up is highly questionable,” he said.
He appealed to the authorities concerned to extend aid in searching for the missing individual and help the families of the victims.
Police reported that the bodies other than Ahanthem Dara were recovered at around 9.30 am on Thursday morning at Haotak Phailen hill range. The bodies have been deposited at RIMS morgue.
Following the incident, a team of Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) went to meet the family members of the victims.
Coordinator of COCOMI, Jeetendra Ningomba told IFP over the phone that the team have met the victim’s family members.
He was told by the meira paibis and locals of the area that 9 bombs were fired at Haotak village. The bombs were reportedly fired from Laibung which is located at the foothill of Haotak Phailen hill range. He was also told that a team of central forces have been securing the area.
He was also told that a meeting will be conducted on Friday at Haotak to decide whether they will accept the bodies or not. The meeting will be participated by various civil society organisations along with locals of nearby villages.
Since November 23 last year, the womenfolk of the area have been protesting to withdraw central forces which are deputed in the area.
To secure the villagers, the state government deployed 110 personnel of 6th Manipur Rifles at Sagang college on Thursday.
Sources reported that a combined team of state and central forces conducted a search operation in the Haotak Phailen hill range; however, no traces of Ahanthem Dara could be made till the time of filing of this report.