Lungnila : Long wait for justice From 2003 to 2023
God sees the truth but waits. A case of real life coming real close to imitating a fiction written more than a hundred years back by the inimitable Leo Tolstoy and one here is talking about Lungnila Elizabeth, a child who jolted Manipur awake to how ugly some elements can become. Twenty years is two decades and if Lungnila Elizabeth had been alive today, she would have been a lissome lady of 28, having achieved what she set out to do. Her classmates and school friends have completed school and many would have settled down in life with a family of their own, but the memory of the little girl child continues to haunt the collective psyche of Manipur and why not. Those who were already in the profession of disseminating information to the people, first thing in the day everyday, will remember how the initial report of a little girl child being kidnapped from near her school (Little Flower School) was received and how the crime reporter (the reporter whose beat it is to cover all news remotely connected to anything to do with crime and its associated other aspects) was put on duty to collect all the information possible was alerted. This is at least what The Sangai Express did back in 2003. Winter had already set in and it was in the not so comfortable night of November 4, 2003 that the crime reporter had to fortify himself with caps, double jacket and a hand glove to move around and collect as much information as possible. The initial train of thought was that it could have been a ‘routine case’ of kidnapping for ransom, as little Elizabeth was the child of a then Minister in the State Government. However the initial thought of ‘routine’ became a worrying point for it soon became sort of obvious that the kidnappers were always one or two steps ahead of the Government and no leads were forthcoming. Conspiracy theories also flew wild, with many coming up with outlandish possibility on why the child was kidnapped and who could be behind the kidnapping. The media was also pressed hard by the information hungry public, wanting to know more about the case. It was a full 8 days after the little child was whisked away from the gate of her school, that reports came in of a decomposed body of a young child being discovered at Tera Sadokpam. As professionals dealing with reports, some interesting and some not so interesting, it becomes difficult to keep all the happenings at one’s fingertips but even after nearly twenty years of the incident, the days after her kidnapping must still be fresh in the minds of all those are engaged with the media. Keep in mind too that the nearly twenty years that have passed means it has also added to the age of the journalists too.
As the death of the girl child began to sink into the consciousness of everyone, one can still recall the great chase that was held along the Imphal-Dimapur National Highway (it was then NH-39) to capture prime accused James Kuki. The name of other accused N Rome Meetei also figured prominently and if the memory is still right, he occupied prime space on the front page of all Imphal based newspapers when he was held by some vigilant meira paibi members along with members of some student organisations. That James Kuki was arrested sometime in 2007 after being held in captivity earlier by the NSCN (IM) is another story that went to underline the tragic story of Lungnila Elizabeth. Now it is the long arm of the law that has obviously caught up with Rome and James Kuki, while two other notorious characters Th Nando and O Deben have already passed away to the other world. Twenty years is a long time by any stretch of the imagination but this is how justice seems to work and the point to understand is, justice will come even though it may appear to be late, very late. March 13 is the date that has been fixed for sentence hearing and one hopes this will at least offer some sort of a solace to the departed soul of the young girl child. One also hopes that the justice delivered in the conviction of the killers will also offer some sort of a relief to the family members of the late young child.