| The gram panchayat pradhans stage a protest at Ghari on Monday. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Imphal, June 8: Threatened, beaten and forced to live in an office for fear of militant attacks, heads of rural organisations in Manipur today sought people’s support to tackle “threats and intimidation” from rebel groups for not meeting monetary demands.
Nearly 100 gram panchayat pradhans today staged a sit-in at Ghari in Imphal West demanding that the extortion and threats be withdrawn by the armed groups.
“We are staging the sit-in to highlight our grievances. The militants are threatening us for not complying. We want to ask the people whether they want us to give away the development funds, because it belongs to the people. If they do not want the money to go into the hands of the militants then please come out and support us. The sit-in is to seek public opinion,” Ph. Dinesh Singh, a pradhan from Imphal West, said.
The pradhans charged the Prepak, the KCP (Military Council) and the KYKL of demanding money from each gram panchayats. The amounts range from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, they said.
The elected representatives said the militants have issued threats, called the pradhans and beaten them and even fired shots at their houses for not meeting the demand.
“Under these circumstances, we cannot stay in our home and lead a normal lives, let alone take up development projects. Our family members and children, too, are terrified and they can neither sleep nor eat,” Dinesh said.
Some of the pradhans from Imphal East and West districts have been staying at the office of district rural development agency office located near the office of the deputy commissioner in Imphal West for the past few days.
A source said several of the pradhans went into hiding in relatives’ or friends’ places after the threats began pouring in.
“We want that the monetary demands be withdrawn and that we should be allowed to work peacefully for the welfare of the people,” pradhan A. Memthoi said.
What is worrying the elected representatives more is lack of response from the government authorities.
“We complained to the authorities repeatedly. But no action has been taken,” one of them said.
The pradhans said today’s sit-in is only the beginning. They will continue the agitation for the next few days.
“If the situation does not change, then we will launch a movement against the threats and intimidation,” a pradhan said.