The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More flak for forces in Manipur

Imphal, March 12: Walking from one controversy to another, government forces in Manipur today faced frenzied protests in Bishenpur and Chandel districts over a woman’s arrest and the death of another in firing by army and paramilitary personnel.

A mob blocked the National Highway 150 at Yumnam Khnuou, in Bishenpur, in protest against the arrest of 65-year-old Toncaobi Devi on Friday. The police team was actually looking for her son, Joy Singh, in connection with a kidnapping case but picked up his mother instead when they could not locate him.

Residents of Khoibu village, in Chandel district, erupted in similar fashion over the death of 30-year-old Meikham in an encounter between militants and an army and Assam Rifles team yesterday. Four members of the outlawed People’s Liberation Army were killed, too.

Villagers refused to accept the woman’s body for cremation until the soldiers involved in the encounter were punished.

The victim’s husband, Chingthui, and her relatives accused the security personnel of breaking into their house and shooting her dead without provocation. “She was hiding under a cot with our two-year-old child in her arms. My wife died on the spot and our child suffered a bullet injury,” Chingthui said.

Most of the villagers had bolted themselves in their houses or fled when the encounter began. Sophisticated weapons were seized from the slain PLA militants, official sources said.

In Bishenpur, a swarm of protesters ' most of them women ' targeted the highway linking Imphal and the Churachandpur district headquarters. The protesters warned that the blockade would continue till Toncaobi Devi was freed.

Burnt tyres littered several stretches of the highway and traffic barely moved because of the roadblocks.

Local legislator N. Radhakishore castigated the police for detaining the “innocent woman” for three days without filing any charges.

The MLA said he visited the woman in custody yesterday and found her “very weak” because she had refused to eat food in protest against her arrest.

Bishenpur district is also seething over the alleged molestation of a woman during a search operation by security forces earlier this month. The incident occurred at a village adjacent to Yumnam Khnuou.

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