Luwangshangbam tobacco haul case: Two non-Manipuris, couple held, released on bail

TMB Report

IMPHAL: In a swift and productive investigation in connection with the seizure of a truckload of tobacco products at Luwangshangbam, Heingang Police was able to round up the key players in the smuggling and concealment of the intoxicants on Thursday, just around 48 hours after the raid by local women and youths yielded the huge quantity of popular tobacco items.

Two non-Manipuris and a husband-wife couple from Luwangshangbam Mamang Leikai were picked up by the police, after identifying them as the owners and co-conspirators respectively, on charge of contravention of norms of the lockdown for endangering lives and risking the spread of Covid-19. Although, police sought six days custody remand for the arrestees all four were surprisingly released on bail without the former’s knowledge by a magistrate.

Furthermore, the investigation by the police could not establish the involvement of uniform personnel in the movement of the tobacco products even though several witnesses have testified that the vehicle with the consignment of tobacco products was escorted by IRB personnel and even hinted at involvement of influential public representatives or officials. Police cited the testimonials of local residents of Luwangsangbam Mamang Leikai, the hotspot of the case where the tobacco products were transported, unloaded and destroyed, to debunk the allegation of involvement of any of the state’s security forces.

In a press release issued by the officer in charge of Heingang Police Station, the police identified the person who claimed to be the owner of the consignment as a woman from the same locality, Waikhom Punibati (42) who is the wife of W. Sanayaima. Before that a theory was in circulation about a political big wig being the investor. The reason was not just public’s growing suspicion of politician’s involvement in each of all nefarious dealings. During the raid, meira paibi leaders while relaying the confessions made to them by Purnima Devi have quoted her that an MLA was in fact the owner of the items.

Meanwhile, the police statement said Punibati admitted that she in association with her husband were planning to use a property of Purnima as the storage space. It was learnt from her statement that the tobacco items actually belonged to two non-Manipuris, Rambali Mahato (37), son of Suraj Mahota of Masajid Road, and Santosh Gupta (35), son of Siyaram Shah of Batoliya, Chitambari, Bihar and at present residing at Thangal Bazar. As the transportation of the items were regarded to be in violation of the present lockdown guidelines which is supposed to spread the pandemic of Covid-19, a case has been registered under FIR No. 46(07)2020 HNG-PS, U/S 188/269/270/34 IPC.

Rambali and Santosh were picked up from their residences and interrogated in connection with the case. On interrogation it was revealed that Santosh brought the seized articles from Guwahati and attempted to store the seized articles with the help of Waikhom Punibati and her husband Waikhom Sanayaima in collusion with Rambali Mahato at the house of Laishram Purnima Devi at Luwangsangbam Mamang Leikai.

On further investigation all the involved accused persons were arrested in connection with the case and made a prayer for remanding the accused person in police custody for six days. However, a magistrate had already released them on bail by passing an order.

However, police announced that investigation of the case is in good progress. During the investigation many local people including the daughter in-law of Laishram Purnima Devi were interviewed but the examination did not establish involvement of uniform personnel like IRB, the police statement clarified.

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