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Cops kill for right of way

Imphal, Oct. 20: Manipur erupted in anger again after a police team shot dead a 41-year-old man on a crowded street this morning, ostensibly because he did not make way for the vehicle in which the squad was travelling.

The victim, R.K. Sanajaoba Singh, was the brother of former chief minister R.K. Jaichandra Singh.

Reminiscent of the uprising in the wake of Thangjam Manorama's death in Assam Rifles' custody, residents of Imphal put up roadblocks at several places in protest against the murder. They also formed a joint action committee and announced a 24-hour general strike in the state from midnight.

The Apunba Lup, an umbrella organisation of 32 groups spearheading the Manorama agitation, has condemned the killing and extended support to the statewide strike.

The death and alleged rape of Manorama in July had ignited a backlash, which eventually snowballed into a campaign against a law that gives special powers to the armed forces. The Manipur uprising had caught the new government at the Centre off guard, almost costing Union home minister Shivraj Patil his job.

Witnesses to today's incident said the police team opened fire on Sanajaoba Singh, who was riding a scooter, after a scuffle at Imphal's Wahengbamleikai locality.

The altercation occurred when the police team, travelling in a Maruti Gypsy, rebuked him for not giving right of way. One of the policemen then whipped out his pistol and fired at Sanajaoba Singh, killing him on the spot, they said.

Sanajaoba Singh's relatives refused to accept his body, which is kept at the mortuary of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences here. As Manorama's family had done three months ago, they said the body would not be cremated until the police personnel involved in the incident were punished.

Residents of several localities of the capital town blocked National Highway 39, demanding punishment for the police team. The protesters did not budge even after reinforcements were rushed to these places and Section 144 was imposed.

The protesters held a meeting near the site of the killing and formed a committee. The meeting resolved not to accept the body until their condition is met.

A delegation later submitted a memorandum to chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, seeking an inquiry into the killing.

A senior police official said action would be taken against the personnel on the basis of a report from the district superintendent of police.

The new crisis broke a day after the Apunba Lup completed its third round of talks with governor S.S. Sidhu since October 1 and agreed to a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi later this month.

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