Kavita, the wife of 47-year-old Atom Samarendra Singh, is fearing the worst. On May 6, in the early days of the massive violence in Manipur, Mr Singh, a journalist, researcher and social worker, went missing. There has been no news of him since.
A friend who was with him — 48-year-old Yumkhaibam Kirankumar Singh — has not returned either. The two had driven to the Saheibung area, adjacent to the Manipur Olympic Park, bordering the foothills of Kangpokpi district. Their cellphones are switched off. They are untraceable.
At least 30 people have gone missing since ethnic violence erupted in Manipur in May. Given the number of missing complaints and the un-numbered First Information Reports filed, the number can grow by leaps and bounds.
Police sources said searches are conducted after a missing complaint is filed, but there has been no success yet. There are over 6,000 Zero FIRs.
Mr Singh wanted his son becomes a scientist. The family was supposed to travel to Shillong in May.
“My father worked very hard and wanted me to join the ISRO’s young scientist programme held in Shillong,” Mr Singh’s son Atom Thoihenba told NDTV. “We wanted our son to study in Delhi. How will I manage that now because he was the only earning member,” his mother said.
“The families should at least be given samples for DNA test so we can perform the last rites. But the Manipur government cannot do that and cannot find the missing persons either,” said Mr Singh’s uncle Atom Meghajit.
Exactly two months after the journalist and his friend went missing, another tragedy unfolded in Imphal on July 6.
Hijam Luwangbi Linthoingambi, 17, had left her home for her NEET coaching classes when the curfew was relaxed in the morning. She was picked up by her boyfriend – 17-year-old Phijam Hemanjit – and the two went for a long ride on his bike, thinking the situation was improving.
They have been missing since. Their parents have filed complaints at two separate police stations.
The police say there is CCTV footage confirming they were spotted going towards Nambol area in Imphal valley.
“Cybercrime police reports that her phone was last switched off at Kwakta and the boy’s phone got switched off at Lamdan,” said Hijam Kullajit, father of the girl. The two places are located in two different districts — Kwakta in Bishnpur district, Lamdan in Churachandpur – and are 18 km away from each other. The areas at the border of the valley and hills have seen major violence.
“As she didn’t return, I called her and she picked up. She seemed frightened and said she was in Nambol. I asked why she was at Nambol and asked her to reveal her location, so her father can come and pick her up. She murmured Khoupum (20 km from Nambol) and her phone got switched off,” the girl’s mother Jayashree told NDTV.
The families are fearing that their loved ones are being tortured. Hemanjit’s cellphone is now being used with a new number, the police have found.
“That area is just 10 km inside from the main road… the Tiddim road, but the police does not dare to go there to search,” Phijam Ibungobi, Hemanjit’s father told NDTV.
In the hills, the civil society has documented missing cases and also cases where the bodies are yet to be sent back. A mass burial has been planned on August 3.
“There are reports of 44 dead bodies of our people who went missing and are now in the morgues of Imphal hospitals. We have requested the authorities to send those bodies for burial,” said Ginza Vualzong, spokesperson, Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF).
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