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Riot cops out as Manipur burns

July 19: The flames of anger sparked by a custody death continued to envelop Manipur, forcing the state government to requisition the services of riot police and Delhi to depute Union minister of state for home Sri Prakash Jaiswal for a fact-finding mission to the state.

Torch rallies spearheaded by women lit up the night sky in the twin districts of East and West Imphal. At the stroke of 7 pm, both districts witnessed a surge of women and men carrying bamboo torches and shouting slogans against alleged excesses by security forces.

Police burst teargas shells and fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, who were from as many as 32 organisations. Similar torch rallies were held in parts of Bishenpur district.

A unit of the Rapid Action Force reached Imphal this afternoon to help the police control rioting and arson, which intensified when curfew was lifted for three hours in the twin districts of East and West Imphal and for six hours in Thoubal and Bishenpur districts.

The riot police team and five vehicles were taken to Imphal by a special aircraft. Official sources said 12 companies of the Border Security Force would reach the state tomorrow.

Manipur’s political leadership yesterday condemned the custody killing and urged Union home minister Shivraj Patil to visit the state and personally judge the gravity of the situation. Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today told the media that Jaiswal, not Patil, would visit Imphal. He said the government intended to temporarily lift the curfew to give people the opportunity to air their grievances before the Union minister of state, who will reach Imphal tomorrow.

Indefinite curfew was imposed after a dozen women staged a naked protest in front of the Assam Rifles base at Kangla Fort on Thursday. They were demanding punishment to the personnel who arrested and shot dead 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama.

The commander of the army’s 3 Corps, Lt Gen. Daljit Singh, said the court of inquiry into the alleged extra-judicial killing would be completed in two weeks.

Speaking to the media for the first time since rushing to the state on Friday, he said the inquiry team had been told to complete its task by the deadline.

“We are waiting for the reports of the post-mortem, which might have been submitted to the state government by the medical team that conducted the autopsy. The inquiry will be completed as soon as we get the report,” he said.

The 3 Corps chief said the court martial of anybody found guilty would be open to public scrutiny.

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