Three days after a 26-year-old man was lynched in a village near Imphal, the Manipur police Sunday said that four policemen have been suspended and an inquiry ordered after a purported video of the incident showed that armed police personnel were present at the village when the victim was still alive.
Sources said that police personnel were sent to the village after receiving information about the lynching but that their vehicles were blocked by locals and they reached the village on foot.
Imphal West SP Jogeschandra Haobijam told The Indian Express: “Four Manipur police personnel, including one sub-inspector, who were at the spot, have been suspended on Sunday.”
According to Jayanta Singh, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Range 1, “strong action” had been taken against police personnel seen in the video. “An inquiry has been initiated against them,” he said.
Mohammad Farooque Khan, who hailed from Lilong Haoreibi, Thoubal district was lynched at Tharoijam in Imphal West district by a mob on suspicion that he had stolen a two-wheeler between 3-4 am on September 13. Two others with Khan had managed to escape but are yet to be identified by police.
At least five people, including an Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) constable, have been arrested. Haobijam said, “The hunt is on for those accused who are still absconding. We will arrest them soon.”
Of the several videos circulating on social media after the incident, one video shows armed police personnel were present on September 14 and that Khan was still alive at the time. In the video, at least three khaki-clad men, two wielding guns, are seen around Khan, who is moving slightly, lying in a field.
Mujibur Rehman, a relative of Khan, said, “The presence of policemen shows that the villagers had probably called them and they arrived. But they did nothing to save the victim. Their role needs to be investigated.”
A senior police official said that locals had stopped police vehicles sent to the village. “A few officials went to the spot on foot to check the situation and safeguard against any further assault until the victim could have been picked up and brought to the vehicle. A proper enquiry needs to be done — we cannot come to any conclusion from seeing a few seconds of video as to what was their role,” the official said.
Also on Sunday, members of the Joint Action Committee formed against the killing met Chief Minister N Biren Singh and signed a memorandum of agreement with the government. The first point of the agreement stated: “The state government will suspend the erring police personnel who were on duty, as visible in video clips circulated on social media, immediately. Departmental enquiry against the erring police personnel will be completed, as per procedure, preferably within a period of one month.”
M A Zabbar, the convenor of JAC, said, “We have been assured that the absconding accused will be arrested at the earliest and the attackers will be brought to book.”
Another video of the incident shows that minutes before he died, Khan, had asked for water. The group of men standing around him had refused and only said: “You have come all the way to steal so why are you asking for water?”
“This was the kind of barbarism shown by the killers. One of the videos show Farooque asking for water in a whisper and this is what his attackers told him,” said Mohammad Mujibur Rehman, a relative of Khan.
Rehman, who is also a member of the JAC, added, “They kept on hitting him even after he was dead — as you can see from the videos. He was mocked by the attackers while he breathed his last.”
According to Makakmayum Baadshah, Khan was a “young, budding” entrepreneur. “Other than running a restaurant, Khan had another business in manufacturing, in which he produced packed fried-meat items. To upgrade this venture, he had got a loan amount sanctioned also through a government scheme. Had he been alive today, Farooque would have got the loan amount and progressed with his business venture,” he said.
“He always smiled and was a fun-loving person. He had returned to Manipur in 2016 after his MBA and started off on his entrepreneurial plans.”
Khan also held a master’s degree in business administration from a college in Karnataka. Several friends of Khan have come out on Facebook to condemn the killing and pay tribute to their friend.
In an open letter to the attackers, one of his friends Ningthoujam Budhagyan wrote, “The videos circulated on the social media is horrifying, brutal and unwatchable.You accused my friend of lifting a Scooty. Was the Scooty more valuable than the life of a human being? Do your neighbourhoods lack people with empathy which stops them to not come forward and say this act is ruthless? Torturing a human being who lay there motionless begging for water in his last breath yet you all watch sadistically.”