The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uneasy calm in arson-hit hills

Imphal, July 10: The four Naga-dominated hill districts of Manipur got a respite from violence after an arson-marred weekend that saw protesters torching 24 government offices, but the community’s refusal to call off its highway blockade kept the atmosphere tense and the government on tenterhooks.

The series of events until about midnight yesterday ' four offices in Senapati were set ablaze even as the Okram Ibobi Singh ministry took steps to placate the Naga community ' may have indicated more violence today, but officials said none of the hill districts witnessed any untoward incident throughout the day.

The trigger for the violence was the death of a Naga resident of Senapati in firing by Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel on Friday. The incident occurred when a group of Nagas were trying to enforce the indefinite highway blockade launched by a student organisation in protest against the Ibobi government’s decision to observe the anniversary of the 2001 June uprising as “state integrity day”.

That uprising was against Delhi’s bid to extend its ceasefire with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) beyond Nagaland.

The Ibobi government placed two IRB personnel under suspension and withdrew all units of the force from the Senapati district headquarters after Naga protesters set fire to 20 buildings, including the deputy commissioner’s office in Ukhrul, by afternoon yesterday. Two persons were reportedly injured when police opened fire on a mob in Ukhrul.

The government’s action against the IRB, however, did not stop another group of protesters from torching four offices around midnight. There were no more incidents of arson thereafter, though a 48-hour general strike called by the Naga Students Association of Manipur did paralyse life across the hill districts.

Several Imphal-bound inter-state buses were stranded at Mao Gate, on the Manipur-Nagaland border, and Dimapur because of the general strike, an official source said.

A contingent of Assam Rifles troops launched an operation this morning to flush out militants from between Nungba and Barak along National Highway 53, which the government intends to develop into an alternative lifeline for the the blockade-affected state.

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