The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the investigation in 27 first information reports (FIRs) lodged in connection with ethnic clashes in Manipur that have claimed more than 160 lives in nearly four months, officials said.
According to the latest data, the CBI has so far registered 27 cases handed over to it by the state police -- 19 cases of crime against women, three related to an armoury loot by a mob, two of murder and one each of rioting and murder, kidnapping and general criminal conspiracy, sources aware of the developments said.
The agency has re-registered these cases but has not made the details public because of the sensitive nature of the situation prevailing in the northeastern state, they said.
CBI teams have started questioning the suspects and victims after visiting the crime sites, the sources added.
The investigation gained momentum after the CBI top brass mobilised a team of 53 officers, including 29 women, drawn from various units of the federal agency across the country to probe the cases, they said.
With the society in Manipur divided on ethnic lines, the CBI is facing the critical task of avoiding allegations of bias during the operation as any involvement of people from one community will result in fingers pointed from the other side, the sources said.
They said several of these cases being probed by the CBI may attract provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which can be probed by an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police.
Since the deputy SPs cannot be supervisory officers in such cases, the agency has mobilised one of its its SP-ranked officers to supervise and monitor the investigation, they said.
The team that also includes three DIGs -- Lovely Katiyar, Nirmala Devi and Mohit Gupta -- and Superintendent of Police Rajveer will report to a joint director who is supervising the overall probe, the sources said.
It is understood to be a first-of-its-kind mobilisation where such a large number of women officers have been simultaneously pressed into service, they added.
Two additional superintendents of police and six deputy superintendents of police -- all women -- are also part of the 53-member force, they said.
Besides, 16 inspectors and 10 sub-inspectors will also be part of the team, the sources said.
More than 160 people have been killed and several hundreds injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, when a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts.