New Delhi: On the morning of September 16, Saturday, Sepoy Serto Thangthang Kom was abducted from his house in Tarung in the Imphal West district of Manipur. His body was found by the road, in the Imphal East district, a day later, on September 17.
Tarung is in the Neikanlong area of the district.
Thangthang had been deployed at the Leimakhong Military Station and was on leave. He had retired from the Assam Regiment in 2018, and later joined the Defence Service Corps in 2019.
The public relations officer of the Kohima and Imphal division of the Ministry of Defence has posted on X (formerly Twitter) from its official handle, noting the death.
An #IndianArmy soldier, Sep Serto Thangthang Kom (41), was abducted & later killed, by 3 unidentified miscreants, while on leave at Tarung, Happy Valley, #Imphal West. He was deployed at DSC Platoon, Leimakhong, #Manipur. He is survived by his wife & 2 children.@SpokespersonMoD pic.twitter.com/UYgDqhW51b
— PRO, Kohima & Imphal, Ministry of Defence (@prodefkohima) September 17, 2023
Thangthang’s family says that three unknown people knocked at the door of the family’s house on Saturday and took him away at gunpoint in a white car.
At that time Thangthang was sitting on the porch with his son, who is seven years old. The child witnessed his father being led away.
Speaking to The Wire, Thangthang’s elder brother, Reverend Pachung Serto Litan, said, “He had one bullet in his head when we found his body lying on the street.”
When asked if he knew who might have killed Thangthang, Litan said, “We don’t know who did this, but we suspect people from the valley.”
Thangthang is a member of the Kom community, to which famed boxer Mary Kom belongs. A member of the Kom community with whom The Wire spoke to and who requested to remain anonymous, said, “We heard the gunshot on the same day at 11 am, but we didn’t know it was Thang.”
The family, after learning that ThangThang was abducted, reached out to several police stations including the Imphal West superintendent of police for help, along with all civil society organisations, including the influential COCOMI (Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity).
Members of Thangthang’s family and others in the Kom community told The Wire that Imphal Police allegedly conducted several search operations in all the nearby areas after he was abducted in the white car, but ultimately failed to find him on time.
The Committee for Tribal Union (COTU), in a statement, demanded that the government of India reimpose the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Imphal Valley. The statement said:
“Such barbaric acts perpetrated in broad daylight show how the armed Meitei miscreants are allowed to roam freely around Imphal Valley to carry out terror activities without hesitation, once again proving that Manipur is no longer a state run by a democratically elected government but is run by communal-minded autocratic rulers. As the state police failed to perform its duties in the Imphal valley, Reimposition of AFSPA in the valley would be the only way out for the Government of India to contain the armed Meiteis from carrying out such inhumane acts against innocent people.”
Two Border Security Forces jawans and several cops of the Manipur Police are among security and law enforcement forces killed in the ethnic violence in the state which began in May 3.
*Note: An earlier version of this report had mistakenly identified Thangthang as having worked at the Assam Rifles. He was in the Assam Regiment.