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Manipur protesters keep pot boiling

Imphal, July 25: The uprising in Manipur showed no sign of abating with Opposition parties today joining the protest bandwagon amid a 24-hour statewide bandh marked by sporadic violence.

The bandh was jointly announced by 32 organisations after the government cremated Thangjam Manorama, the woman whose death in Assam Rifles’ custody triggered the agitation, without her family’s consent.

Protesters took to the streets again and burned effigies of Union minister of state for home Sri Prakash Jaiswal, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his colleagues in the Secular Progressive Front government. Flags of the constituents of the ruling coalition were set ablaze, too, at Khongman Magnjil in Imphal East district.

Activists of various organisations held demonstrations across the four districts of the valley. The indefinite curfew in Imphal East and West districts was lifted for 12 hours from 4 am, but markets remained closed and vehicles were off the road.

Leaders of five Opposition parties met during the day and adopted a resolution to support the campaign for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The meeting was attended by leaders of the BJP, the Federal Party of Manipur, the Manipur People’s Party, the Manipur National Conference and the Democratic Revolutionary People’s Party.

“We demand that the repressive Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed/removed from the state of Manipur and the state cabinet should take a decision to withdraw the ‘disturbed area’ status within three days,” they said in a joint statement after the meeting.

The leaders hailed the naked protest by a dozen women at the gate to the Assam Rifles base and the self-immolation attempt by five youths yesterday as “courageous acts” to protect human rights.

The youths suffered 20-30 per cent burn injuries and are in hospital.

The parties accused the Ibobi Singh government of using “repressive” methods to subdue the protesters and insulting the “dignity of the deceased” by having Manorama’s body cremated without informing her family.

The woman’s family had refused to accept her body until the Assam Rifles personnel who shot her dead were punished and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was withdrawn from the state.

The chief minister left for New Delhi this afternoon to discuss the situation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders.

The focus of the discussions is expected to be the armed forces act.

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