A Central Bureau of Investigation team led by Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar reached Imphal Wednesday afternoon to investigate the "kidnapping and killing" of two students days after they went missing, sources said.
Photos of the bodies of the two students -- Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi (17) -- who were missing since July 6, were shared widely on social media on Monday, sparking fresh rounds of protests in the state.
The focus of the agency will be identifying the scene of crime, retrieve the bodies besides and nail the perpetrators, the sources said.
The team will meet senior police and government officials and go through local intelligence about the tragic incident, they said.
The state government in consultation with the home ministry referred the matter to the CBI which immediately dispatched a team of officials led by agency's second in command Bhatanagar to probe the crime.
Another senior officer, Joint Director Ghanshyam Upadhyay, who is camping in Imphal, also joined the team on arrival, the sources said.
The team comprises officers who have expertise in special crime, crime scene recreation, interrogation and technical surveillance. It will also have experts from the CBI's elite Central Forensic Science Laboratory, the sources said.
One of the two photos purportedly showed the students with two armed men and the other was of two bodies.
Police had previously said the whereabouts of the two were not known and their mobile phones were found switched off.
The last location of their mobile phones was traced to Lamdan, near the winter flower tourist spot in Churachandpur district, police had said.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Wednesday said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured him that those who had kidnapped and killed the two Manipuri youths will be arrested and punished.
The chief minister told reporters: "The central and state governments are very serious about this case. Union Home Minister Amit Shah-ji called me up yesterday evening and told me that he is sending a CBI team on a special flight to investigate the particular case."
Singh quoted Shah as stating that this case has to be dealt with very seriously and those responsible have to be booked as per the law of the land and assured that “no one will be spared”.
“After landing in Imphal, they (CBI) have started their investigation,” the chief minister said without disclosing the place where the CBI team has gone.
Singh had announced on Tuesday night that CBI officials would be reaching the state on Wednesday to probe into the kidnapping and killing of the two youths.
Speaking on the nature of injuries suffered by demonstrators, Singh said, "If security forces had fired bullets or anything lethal, the government will not tolerate it and disciplinary actions will be taken against them. In case of major injuries, investigations would be carried out to give them justice."
"If our children get unjustified treatment even from our own forces, disciplinary actions will be taken," he assured.
The chief minister said that he has information that "objects made of iron were thrown at the security forces by miscreants who were among the demonstrating students," adding a number of police personnel were also injured.
He pointed out that agitations need to be peaceful and should not be held in hyper-sensitive zones of offices of the Governor and the chief minister.
He said the real issue is to protect the state and its indigenous people from "illegal immigrants and drug mafia."
Security personnel have been put on alert and additional measures taken to prevent any incident following the photos of the deceased students going viral, a senior officer said.
The government has assured people that "swift and decisive action will be taken against all those involved in the kidnapping and killing of Phijam Hemjit and Hijam Linthoingambi".
More than 175 people have been killed and several hundreds injured since ethnic clashes broke out in the northeastern state 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.