The Union Home Ministry (MHA) has asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the assassination of an influential tribal leader and social activist Athuan Abonmai on September 22.
Manipur Government’s Special Secretary (Home) H. Gyan Prakash said in Imphal that following the proposal of the Director-General of Police L.M. Khaute, the MHA issued orders on Thursday directing the NIA to take up investigation of the abduction and murder of Abonmai.
The Manipur police chief had earlier constituted a team headed by IGP (Intelligence) Radhashyam Singh, with two other IG rank officials K. Kabib and Kamei Angam Romanus as members to probe the killing.
The Manipur government has suspended 16 policemen including some troopers of Manipur Rifles over the killing.
Abonmai was shot dead soon after he was abducted by armed men from Tamenglong district headquarters on September 22.
The policemen allegedly behaved as mere onlookers while Abonmai was being dragged out and bundled into a waiting jeep.
After the widespread condemnation of the assassination of Abonmai by suspected militants of the NSCN (IM), Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh had publicly apologized for the police inaction.
“I wondered how the morale of the police had lowered to such an extent. Police should have taken swift action and saved the life of Abonmai,” said Singh, who also holds the home portfolio.
Abonmai was abducted on September 22 when the Chief Minister, accompanied by his ministerial colleagues, visited the Tamelong district bordering Assam and Nagaland to inaugurate some projects.
According to the police officials, the tribal leader was reportedly abducted while he was on his way to attend the Chief Minister’s programme.
Local media reports said that 20 armed cadres of a hill-based extremist outfit suspected to be the cadres of NSCN (IM) kidnapped Abonmai near Pallong village.
Police are yet to ascertain the motive behind the incident with no militant group claiming responsibility for the abduction and killing of the tribal leader.
Several organizations condemned the incident and demanded an explanation from the perpetrators on the motive behind the assassination.