Lungnila Elizabeth : Long road to justice
November 4, 2003 to 2019
The long road to justice. This is not to say that justice will finally be delivered but significant to note that Session Judge, Imphal West has fixed July 30, July 31 and August 1 for the final hearing in the kidnapping and murder case of Baby Lungnila Elizabeth. From 2003 to 2019 and certainly 16 years is a long, long time but it is good that the case has today reached the final hearing stage. Three accused have been named in the persons of Thokchom Nando, James Kuki and N Rame. And out of these three accused, Thokchom Nando escaped from the orthopaedic ward of JNIMS Hospital on March 26, with the search for the fugitive not bearing any fruit till date. Too early to say if the three accused will be convicted or not, but one still remembers the sense of outrage that gripped the people when the decomposed body of the child was found at Tera Sadokpam Leikai on November 12, 2003 after she was whisked away from the gate of her school, Little Flower School, on November 3, the same year. Those who had joined the media back then and are still in service will remember the sense of outrage that followed, the great chase along the Imphal-Dimapur highway after news did the round that James Kuki had escaped and was travelling along the said route. That James Kuki finally landed in the hands of the NSCN (IM) is another matter, but one can still remember the questions that did the round back then, on why the accused should be in the custody of an armed group, which is still banned in Manipur. That James Kuki was finally handed over to the State Government at the insistence of the Centre is another matter, but the feeling that justice is yet to be delivered in the dastardly killing of the child continues to haunt the conscience of many.
It is justice that people will obviously be looking forward to now that the case has been dragging on for so long. Sixteen years is a long time by any stretch of the imagination and a child junior to Lungnila Elizabeth would today be most likely pursuing her Master’s degree. If the kidnapping and murder of Lungnila Elizabeth chilled the sense of the people and importantly brought the people together, then the people of Manipur too experienced a similar sense of trauma and pain when two young children of Senapati, Hriini Hubert and Muheni Martin were kidnapped, held for ransom and were later found killed in 2007. All instance to show that Manipur has not been safe for young children and again as in the case of Lungnila Elizabeth, many of the accused in the case of the double murder reportedly fell into the hands of the NSCN (IM). Reports that trickled into the offices of the newspapers did say that some suspects were punished by the outfit, which were reportedly to the satisfaction of the parents of the two children, but what type of punishment was awarded is not clear even to this day. Mercifully no high profile murder cases like that of Lungnila Elizabeth and the two children from Senapati have hit the State in recent years, but Lungnila Elizabeth, Hriini Hubert and Muheni Martin will continue to haunt the collective psyche of the people of Manipur.