On March 20,2011,21-year-old Irom Rozer and a bunch of friends packed into his white i20 and headed out from his home in the heart of Imphal towards the highway leading to Tulihal airport. It was the day of Holi,arguably the biggest festival for a largely Vaishnav Manipur.
Another group of friends followed in a car behind them. However,what began as a joyride ended in a nightmare.
Near the airport,Rozer overtook a black Bolero SUV with tinted windows and an India flag on the bonnet. The Bolero had five passengers,including 27-year-old Nongthongbam Ajay,the son of Manipur cabinet minister and spokesperson Nongthongbam Biren Meitei. Reportedly miffed at being overtaken,Ajay whipped out a pistol and shot Rozer in the neck. He was brought to hospital dead.
A year later,the CBI,which was handed the case following public pressure,has finally filed a chargesheet.
We were not confident of the local police. Despite the fact that Chief Minister Ibobi Singh announced on the floor of the assembly that the case would be handed over to the CBI,this was not done. My husband and I went and met Sonia Gandhi and (then union home secretary) G K Pillai in Delhi and they assured us that everything necessary will be done, says Rozers mother Irom Chitra,at their three-storey home in Wangkhei Angom Leikai.
The CBI chargesheet,a copy of which is with The Indian Express,says accused Ajay and three friends had left for the airport road at 2 pm that fateful day,after lunch at the home of another friend,Soram Raj. Soram Raj was driving the Bolero; Ajay was in the passenger seat.
The occupants of the Bolero jeep noticed two ladies riding on a Honda Activa going towards airport side on Tiddim Road. Since Holi festival was on,N Ajay Meitei told Soram Raj Singh to follow the girls for teasing them, states the CBI report.
Meanwhile,near Ghari village,Rozer and his friends came across the same two girls. Both Rozer and party and Ajay and freinds reportedly then began competing with each other to try and attract the girls attention,says the report.
Rozer tried to overtake the… Bolero jeep but was prevented from overtaking it. After several attempts the i20 car succeeded in overtaking the Bolero … Accused N Ajay Meitei sitting on the left front seat of the Bolero took out his licensed pistol and fired toward the i20 car. Rozer succumbed to his bullet injury, says the CBI chargesheet.
While Ajay sped away,Rozers friends in the second car followed the Bolero and took down the licence plate number. At midnight,Ajay surrendered to the police. He was carrying a magazine with six live cartridges.
The CBI investigation says there was no threat to acused N Ajay Meitei or the other occupants sitting with him and there was no reason for him to fire at Rozer. The firing,the agency says,was without any cause or provocation. It has registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act.
This entire time we have been under tremendous pressure to settle, says Rozers father Irom Lokendro. We have also been offered money. But what about our son? How can we allow this kind of a lawless gun culture to continue in our state,which is killing our children?
Calling the incident unfortunate,Ajays father admits things got out of hand during Holi revelry. Justice will have to take its own course… I personally handed him over to the police… This was not an intentional incident,Ajay has no criminal background. As a parent I was truly shocked when this happened, says the minister.
Chitra has kept son Rozers room exactly the way it was the day he left home. While their elder daughter is studying medicine in Bangalore,Rozer wanted to be a professional footballer,recalls the mother. The walls in his room are covered with posters of Ronaldo while footballs lie strewn in a corner. His last acquisition was a pair of striker shoes,similar to Ronaldos.
He was nuts about Ronaldo. He would watch any match with Ronaldo in it and make me watch too. He told me that all he wanted in life was to see Ronaldo play live at least once,and then he wouldnt mind dying the next day.
Clutching the shoes,a composed Chitra finally breaks down… He never even got to wear these.