Despite the fact that the gunning down of a college student and injuring his father critically, and another person sustained bullet injuries in different election-related violence that took place on the intervening night of December 21 and 22 at Heirok in Thoubal district of Manipur is highly condemnable but not surprising.
Early warnings for such unfortunate incident were already evident from the past election-related violent incidents in the recent months. Tensions and frictions between the groups of the rival candidates which lead to violent incidents have been looming large for some months.
As early as October 2021 election-related violence happened in Andro Assembly Constituency (AC) in Imphal East district.
The violent clash between workers of former minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar in the present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and aspiring candidate of Andro Lourembam Sanjoy broke out October 11 at around 11 am. Workers of former minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar, who was elected on Congress ticket in the last election and joined the present government of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren is intending to fight on a BJP ticket this time, allegedly attacked workers of Lourembam Sanjoy at Yairipok Yambem Leikai under Andro police station Imphal East.
Six persons were injured, most of them with pellet wounds, when workers of two rival political groups clashed during the election rally in the Yairipok Yambem area of Imphal East district on Monday October 11. The DC, Imphal East had since then imposed prohibition orders under Sec 144 of CrPC in the area restricting assembly of people.
Notably, it was not only in Andro Assembly Constituency but election-related violent incidents are happening right in the heart of Imphal in the Assembly Constituencies of Singjamei and Naoriya Pakhanglakpa.
These incidents led to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren condemning the violent incidents and making an appeal on October 12 to shun violence in election-related activities. Chief Minister Biren, who also holds the home portfolio, told the media that if anyone instigates any kind of violence or attacks any individual or organisation, the law enforcing agencies would take stern action against that person.
However, election-related violent activities continue to spread in other Assembly Constituencies.
Hand grenade attack by unknown miscreants at the residence of National People’s Party (NPP) intending candidate of Heirok AC, Ningthoujam Diten at Ukhongsang Mayai Leikai on October 22 was reported. The bomb was hurled and exploded at around 6:45 pm inside the residential campus of Diten; however no one was injured in the explosion.
The violent activities including assault on a district correspondent of a local vernacular newspaper by a group of people, allegedly members of the Heirok block Congress on October 24 morning at Heirok Village in Thoubal district spread like wild fire.
The injured journalist, identified as Elangbam Rameshwar, is the Thoubal correspondent of Naharolgi Thoudang. Police said the incident occurred at around 7:30 am at his residence in Heirok Part-II. As per the complaint filed by the younger brother of the victim, around 20 men wearing face masks came to their residence. The masked men assaulted the victim without any specific reasons and inflicted injuries. The assailants also reportedly vandalised valuables at the victim’s residence. The complainant also identified the names of 13 persons involved in the attack in the plaint.
Even after the imposition of prohibition order under CrPC 144 in the whole of Heirok Village area in Thoubal District by the district administration, another election-related violence took place yet again at Heirok Part II, Thokchom Leikai, Thoubal district of Manipur wherein BJP workers allegedly destroyed three houses of Congress workers of the area on October 25 night.
On October 25 night at about 7.30 pm house of Thokchom Noren was destroyed and vandalised by BJP workers allegedly.
It was reported that Noren’s daughter Thokchom Supriya called him over the phone and told him not to come as some people were attacking their house and asking for his whereabouts. He did not return to his house, following the information shared by her daughter.
It may be mentioned that Noren told the media that he had hoisted the flag of Congress party while some were hoisting the flags of other political parties, including the BJP. The group of people attacked his and his two neighbours’ residences, he maintained while questioning their intentions behind their attack.
After the incident at Heirok on October 25, the state government has deployed additional security forces to monitor the situation. One companies each of Border Security Forces (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), as well as additional forces of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), have been deployed to monitor and control any unwanted incidents in connection with the upcoming election.
However, the violent activities between the rival political groups where BJP and Congress are fighting for the Heirok AC seat in the coming 12th Assembly election which will be held in February-March as the present 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly expires on March 19, 2022 are continuing.
The most unfortunate and first election-related violent incident killing an innocent person who did not involve in electioneering activities took place in the intervening night of December 21 and 22. Ningthoujam Rohit aka Kunao of Heirok Part-II Mayai Leikai and a college student who was reading BA 5th Semester at Thoubal College was shot dead while his father Ningthoujam Premchandra was injured critically and another person in another incident at Heirok Bazar also sustained bullet injuries
When hearing sounds of indiscriminate firing coming from Heirok Part-II Mayai Leikai Maning Leirak from around 10 pm. Around 12 midnight Premchandra and son Rohit went outside on hearing movement of people at their backyard. The masked assailants shot them.
Both the father and son were rushed to Raj Medicity Hospital. However, Rohit died on the way. He suffered bullet injury below his left chest while his father sustained several bullet injuries above the thigh.
In another incident before the father and son were shot, their neighbour Khundongbam Rakesh, 30, son of Shyam was also shot in the right arm by miscreants in front of Heirok Bazar at around 10.30 pm. He is also being treated at Raj Medicity.
After Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s assurance to the bereaved family and Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the killing of Rohit that the culprits would be booked within two days, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by Additional SP Operation Thoubal Soibam Sachidananda was constituted to investigate the case and at least six persons including Thokchom Bishworjit aka Putro, a brother of former minister and BJP MLA Thokchom Radheshyam of Heirok AC MLA have been arrested on the charge of murdering Ningthoujam Rohit on December 24.
The arrested accused persons are namely, Thokchom Henrik aka Naobi, 29, son of Thokchom Ibosana of Heirok Part I Mayai Leikai; Khundongbam Nicky aka Anju, 33, son of Khundongbam Raghuchandra of Heirok Part II Mayai Leikai; Laishram Biken, 23, son of Laishram Bimol of Heirok Part II Mayai Leikai; Thokchom Bishworjit aka Putro, 40, son of Thokchom Ibochouba of Heirok Part II Thokchom Leikai; Ningthoujam Panan, 30, Ningthoujam Muhindro of Heirok Part III Tourangbam Leikai and Thokchom Sanathoi aka Lai, 34, son of Thokchom Dijen aka Lakhpati of Heirok Part II Mayai Leikai.
More incidents of violence are being reported from several assembly constituencies in the state as some miscreants allegedly opened fire at the gate of a resident at Lamlai assembly constituency, Imphal East on December 23.
Reports said the incident took place at around 8.30 pm at the gate of Secretary, Napet Palli Village Managing Committee Sagolsem Lakpati. Soon after, a team of Lamlai police station rushed to the spot for spot enquiry and a magazine of a firearm loaded with 5 live rounds was found.
In another incident in Mayang Imphal on the night of December 23 Congress workers who were conducting house to house election campaign for former Minister, Dr Kh Ratankumar in Mayang Imphal several rounds of bullets were reportedly fired upon a vehicle of a noted Congress worker, Md Altaf Hussain. Reports said before the first firing incident occurred at around 7.30 pm when he was at the residence one Azizur at Bengoon Loukok and they were attacked yet again at around 9.30 pm near Salamad Bazar after returning from Uchiwa Wangbal, a few minutes after the police team departed.
Arrest of six accused persons in the killing of Ningthoujam Rohit and injuring his father is not the end of violent activities in connection with the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election.
It will not be surprising when violent incident between the rival aspiring candidates of the same party happen in the run-up for party ticket of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
From the violent incidents reported from many assembly constituencies are enough early warnings for a violent activities in connection with the electoral activities of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election to be held in February-March 20222.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics