As protesting students end up in hospitals, security forces face heat

From 60 foreign particles lodged in a 17-year-old’s shoulder to eye damage that could lead to another teenager losing his vision  – these are among injuries sustained in the last few days by those protesting against the killing of two Meitei students. The nature of wounds has led to allegations of use of excessive force by security personnel against protesters, largely students, in Manipur’s capital Imphal and valley areas.

In response, Manipur DGP Rajiv Singh Thursday constituted a two-member committee headed by IGP (Adm) K Jayanta Singh to look into such complaints and allegations and submit a report.

The state’s Meitei-dominated valley areas have been on edge since Tuesday, after two photographs surfaced indicating that two youngsters — Hijam Linthoingami (17) and Phijam Hemjit (20) — who had gone missing since July 6 have been killed. Their last phone location was traced to Churachandpur.

Schools were shut and mobile internet services suspended once again as hundreds of students hit the streets in protest, while the police and CAPF, including RAF and Assam Rifles, were called in to control the situation.

The face-off has left many injured. Among them is 17-year-old L Kishan – on Wednesday, photos had emerged showing the top of his right shoulder torn off. “Doctors operated on him and removed 60 small particles of foreign body from the injured area. A forensic examination can reveal the nature of these, we cannot comment on it as of now,” said an official from Imphal’s Shija Hospital.

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Another patient at the same hospital is another Johnson, also 17. “He may lose vision in his right eye. It is grievously injured – whether by splinter, rubber bullet, or something else, we cannot ascertain… We have not operated on his eye… We are waiting for a neurosurgeon’s consent to proceed with the surgery,” said the hospital official.

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On Thursday afternoon, another youth who had been injured, Uttam Soibam (17), underwent surgery at Raj Medicity. X-ray images showed dozens of “foreign particles” lodged in his skull.

An official at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal, said they had received 14 patients with injuries. “Of these, four had injuries with pellets lodged near the eye or the chest,..  None of them were very major injuries and all have been discharged,” he said.

The injuries sustained by minors also prompted the Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights to issue an appeal that the strategies used to control young protests should differ from those applied to adults.