Imphal, Jan 4:
In a powerful demonstration of unity and communal harmony, the Meitei community, including Meitei Civil Society Organizations, came together to participate in the burial ceremony of five Meitei Pangal individuals who tragically lost their lives in an unfortunate incident on January 1 in Lilong Chingjao. Respecting and upholding the rich cultural norms that bind these communities, the cremation, attended by a multitude of people numbering in the thousands, took place in Lilong Chingjao, Thoubal district.
Amidst the solemnity of the occasion, a heartening narrative emerged, countering attempts to sow discord between the Meitei and Meitei Pangal communities. On the day of the tragic incident, malicious actors sought to fracture the deep-seated bonds that exist between these two communities by spreading unfounded rumors on various social media platforms, utilizing fake accounts to propagate their divisive messages. However, the nefarious designs of these individuals were thwarted by the concerted efforts of both Meitei and Meitei Pangal members who assumed pivotal roles in dispelling doubts and fostering a profound understanding of the fraternal ties that unite these communities. As they laid to rest their departed brethren, the community stood united, sending a resounding message of solidarity and emphasizing the indomitable bond that transcends religious and cultural differences.
On Wednesday, the Manipur Government acceded to the demands put forth by the Joint Action Community (JAC), which included the crucial decision to transfer the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The Joint Action Community, formed explicitly to address the heinous killing of the five individuals, took a significant step forward in its pursuit of justice. JAC representatives engaged in discussions with Chief Minister N Biren Singh, leading to a consensus that resulted in the acceptance of the bodies of four victims for the final rites.
The tragic incident, where members of the outlawed People’s Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the deaths of four Pangal community members on January 1, had cast a dark shadow over Lilong Chingjao. The armed group contended that they had resorted to firing in self-defense, asserting that they were attacked by residents when attempting to apprehend a drug trafficker. As the community grappled with the aftermath, the decision to involve the National Investigation Agency reflected a commitment to uncovering the truth and ensuring that justice prevails in the wake of this distressing event.
The JAC had initially rejected the bodies for burial; however, a breakthrough occurred following a meeting between Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh and members of the community’s Joint Action Committee (JAC) in Imphal on January 3. On X, the Chief Minister disclosed that he engaged with Pangal civil society leaders in the presence of Rajya Sabha Member Sanajaoba Leisemba, Minister K. Govindas, and Lilong MLA Abdul Nasir. Expressing profound sorrow for the tragic firing incident, he confirmed the government’s full acceptance of all demands presented by the JAC.
A JAC representative outlined their charter of demands, which included transferring the investigation of the four casualties to the National Investigation Agency. Additionally, they insisted on restricting access to Meitei Pangal-inhabited areas of Manipur solely to Central and State forces and agencies, excluding independent organizations. The JAC also pressed for the establishment of a village protection force in each Meitei Pangal-inhabited area, a Rs. 10 lakh ex-gratia payment for each victim of the January 1 incident, and the provision of a suitable government job for the next of kin of the deceased.