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Manipur burns in assault protest

Imphal, March 4: Manipur went up in flames today during an 18-hour general strike over the alleged molestation and torture of a woman in custody.

Anger raged like wildfire after 22-year-old Maibam Naobi Devi, who had been arrested last week, yesterday alleged that she had been “sadistically” molested and tortured by Manipur police commandos.

Giving vent to their anger, protesters today burnt two block development offices ' one in Imphal East district and the other at Sawombung in chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s Thoubal district. The two districts have been on the boil ever since Naobi was arrested.

The protesters also set fire to a transport office in Imphal East district last night. The fire department’s head office in Imphal rushed additional fire tenders to the district, sensing more trouble.

A large number of protesters, mostly women, came out on the streets across the state today, demanding immediate resignation of the Okram Ibobi Singh government and punishment for the commandos who allegedly molested Naobi.

They put up roadblocks, burnt tyres and logs on state highways in Imphal and other valley districts even as police lobbed teargas shells, exploded mock bombs and fired rubber bullets to disperse them.

The protesters also snatched away two sets of question papers of the higher secondary school examination from a centre in Imphal East district this morning. However, officials supplied additional question papers and conducted the examination without any disruption.

The strike crippled life and severely affected functioning of government offices in the state.

Security measures were strengthened around government offices to prevent further arson. India Reserve Battalion and police personnel had a tough time dousing the fires and clearing road blocks.

Political parties joined the chorus of condemnation on the alleged police brutality. The RJD’s youth front and Manipur State Congress Party demanded punishment for the personnel involved in the alleged molestation.

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