‘The police are saying that the investigation has started, but we haven’t heard anything about it yet.’

The recent grenade blast in East Imphal on Wednesday, January 19, targeted at the home of a National People’s Party supporter and ex-MLA K. Loken was the sixth violent incident in the last two months, and the second after the announcement of the poll date.

Leading up to the Assembly polls in Manipur scheduled for February 27, the state has seen a string of violent incidents targeted at various party members and supporters. The first attack post the announcement took place on January 9 in Imphal West, where two people, identified as Abujam Sasikanta Singh or Tomba (37) and Abujam John Singh (57) were shot at from a speeding Baleno by a masked assailant. Both succumbed to their injuries.

The second attack in East Imphal happened in the Keirao Assembly constituency, where the hand grenade was thrown at K. Loken’s residence - the explosive landed inside a bedroom of the household. Everyone managed to escape the blast alive, though Loken’s son reportedly suffered injuries on his right leg and some household items were destroyed in the explosion.

Investigation is underway for both of these cases, and the culprits are yet to be identified.

A Joint Action Committee consisting of members of nearly five locality clubs in Samurou Awang Leikai, had been protesting on the Mayang-Imphal road, since the attack on cousins John and Tomba on January 9. The Mayang-Imphal road also connects to the border town of Moreh, which is a gateway to Myanmar. The protestors had said on January 16 that the protests will continue from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm every day until the demands are met, citing the police inaction and government’s silence on the matter.

However, the protest was discontinued last Sunday, since Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, and the Superintendent of Police and the District Commissioner of Police came to Samurou to provide assurance to the families that the investigation will be completed and they will be provided compensation from the government. The families will be given INR 5 lakh each and John’s younger daughter who is now in her second year of college, was assured a government job for when she graduates. And as for Tomba’s family, his sister will get his salary until his pension plan comes into effect.

Y. Rabi, General Secretary of Human Resource Development Organisation in Samurou and convenor of the Joint Action Committee said, “The police are saying that the investigation has started, but we haven’t heard anything about it yet.”

“Whatever we have done as part of the JAC has been to support the people of our locality, and it was what the victims’ family wanted…. The family also came out to protest,” said Rabi, mentioning that people from other localities have also strongly condemned this deadly incident. “We strongly condemn gun culture and all that, that is why also the bandh happened,” adding that for every day of the protest between 200 to 500 people were showing up in solidarity.

“We did whatever we had to do since we are the representatives of the locality and the people here,” he said, regarding why the protest lasted as long as it did, despite the police asking them to discontinue the protest on account of disturbances in the area.

In another incident in December last year, a college student, brother of Youth Congress leader Ningthoujam Roshan, was shot to death in his home. Their residence was broken into by masked gunmen, who opened fire, leaving the student dead and his father seriously injured.

One of the six culprits who had surrendered in connection with this case was brother of BJP MLA Thokchom Radheshyam. This attack had triggered a protest by the women of Thoubal district, against the lack of action taken by the police. This protest is still ongoing with reported demands to shut down the police station in the constitution.

In November and December of last year, Manipur saw three IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts and an attack by militants that killed an Assam Rifles Battalion colonel, his wife and son, as well as four paramilitary services personnel. This shooting took place in Churachandpur district bordering Myanmar.

So far, the Chief Minister has visited the homes of the two deceased on January 9, and released a statement to journalists saying, “The attack was carried out by people who do not want peace to prevail in Manipur and are trying to get the political advantage ahead of the elections. The culprit will be arrested and dealt with as per the provision of law.”

However, since the culprits have not yet been nabbed, Rabi said, “The thing which we do not know, we cannot say,” on whether or not the shooting was politically motivate. “If I know who is the culprit, according to that we can know if this is related to poll violence, personal or not. We will come to know.”

“Till now, the people of the locality and the families - we are all eagerly waiting for the culprits,” he told The Citizen. Having known the victims from a young age, he said, “I am still not sure they have died… it is an unbelievable thing.”