Manipur violence: IPS officer Rakesh Balwal recalled from Srinagar amid unrest over two students' killing
Manipur Unrest: In the midst of renewed violence in Manipur stemming from the brutal killings of two students who had gone missing in July, the Union Home Ministry has ordered the repatriation of senior Srinagar police officer Rakesh Balwal to the northeastern state.
Balwal, a 2012-batch IPS officer of the Manipur cadre, was previously posted in Jammu and Kashmir, where he served as the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Srinagar starting late 2021. He had also served on deputation to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as Superintendent of Police (SP) for three and a half years, during which he was part of the team that investigated the 2019 Pulwama terror attack, resulting in the deaths of 40 CRPF personnel.
The Centre's decision to repatriate Balwal prematurely reflects the ongoing violence that has gripped Manipur since May of this year. The violent protests in Manipur regarding the deaths of the two students have persisted into the early hours of today, involving the vandalisation of the deputy commissioner's office in Imphal west and the torching of two four-wheelers. Protests and clashes between protesters and security forces occurred in various areas, including Uripok, Yaiskul, Sagolband, and Tera last night, necessitating the use of multiple rounds of tear gas shells by security personnel to disperse the crowds.
On Tuesday, disturbing photographs surfaced on social media, depicting the bodies of two students who had gone missing in July. The two students, Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi (17), were photographed at a makeshift jungle camp belonging to an armed group.
The images show the girl wearing a white t-shirt, while the boy carries a backpack and sports a checkered shirt. Two armed men are clearly visible behind them in the photograph. In the subsequent photo, their lifeless bodies are seen lying on the ground.
The two students were last seen in Bishnupur district, situated 35 kilometers from Churachandpur - the district where the initial instance of violence erupted in Manipur in May. Allegedly, armed individuals kidnapped them from the area between the two districts and transported them to Churachandpur.
The circulation of these photos led to massive protests across Manipur. In the state capital, Imphal, hundreds of students marched towards Chief Minister N Biren Singh's residence, leading the state police to employ riot gear and tear gas to quell the unrest.
Numerous students sustained injuries in confrontations with law enforcement and were subsequently rushed to hospitals for medical treatment. The protests compelled the Manipur government to reinstate an internet ban in the state, which will remain in effect until Sunday.
In a late-night tweet on Tuesday, Chief Minister N Biren Singh assured the public that his government was collaborating with the Centre to bring the perpetrators of the killings to justice.
"The central and state governments are very serious about this case. Union Home Minister Amit Shah-ji called me yesterday evening and informed me that he is dispatching a CBI team on a special flight to investigate the particular case," stated Singh.
A CBI team, headed by Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar, arrived in Imphal on Wednesday afternoon to initiate an investigation into the murders.
The ongoing ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities in India has resulted in over 180 deaths and the displacement of thousands. The violence erupted on May 3, stemming from the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status.
- With inputs from agencies