| Students gather in front of Imphal Raj Bhavan gate on Monday to submit the memorandum to Governor Gurbachan Jagat. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Imphal, Aug. 17: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh continued to face the heat today over the July 23 killings as more protesters courted arrest demanding his resignation.
Besides, leaders of political parties and citizen forums, too, have demanded Ibobi Singh’s resignation on moral grounds.
The chief minister’s announcement of a judicial probe into the killing of a pregnant woman, Rabina Devi, and a former militant, Ch. Sanjit, allegedly by police commandos, has failed to pacify the protesters.
Even when Ibobi Singh was attending the chief ministers’ conference on internal security in New Delhi today, the protests continued unabated.
On the other hand, a crackdown on the protesters by the police who used teargas shells, rubber bullets and mock bombs, coupled with the arrest of local leaders, have added fuel to the fire.
Four leaders of the Apunba Lup, spearheading the agitation, have been detained under the National Security Act.
Despite the deployment of CRPF and BSF and the move to call in IRB and Manipur Rifles personnel from other districts, there are no signs of the uprising relenting.
As protesters courted arrest at various police stations in Imphal East and Imphal West for the second consecutive day following a call from the Apunba Lup, the police used teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them. Teargas shells were also fired to disperse those who joined the sit-in.
The protests were organised during curfew relaxation from 5am to 5pm for the fifth day.
An unspecified number of protesters were picked up and taken to police stations.
The police also resorted to a lathicharge to disperse a group of slogan-shouting college and school students who marched up to the main gate of Raj Bhavan, breaking police cordons.
The police caned the student protesters and dispersed them before a three-member delegation was allowed to meet Governor Gurbachan Jagat.
The delegation submitted a memorandum to the governor demanding punishment to the guilty police commandos, lifting of curfew and peaceful academic atmosphere.
“The governor promised us that the judicial inquiry would get at the truth and the guilty would be punished accordingly. He also assured us that he would consider lifting curfew,” Khelen Hijam, a member of the delegation, said later.
As police and paramilitary forces were engaged with the protesters, leaders of political parties and citizen bodies assembled at the city’s Gandhi Memorial auditorium to discuss the prevailing situation .
The programme, named Public Dialogue on 23/7, was organised by the Opposition Manipur Peoples Party.
The leaders of the MPP, the BJP, the CPM, the NCP and the Manipur State Congress Party demanded that Ibobi Singh step down on moral grounds.
“There is an allegation that Ibobi Singh made a wrong statement in the House about the incident. And now a judicial inquiry is coming up. To find out the truth, Ibobi Singh should step down on moral grounds,” MPP leader Okram Joy Singh demanded.
MPP president Nimaichand Luwang said the party had convened the public dialogue to know the views of the public on the incident.
“The MPP will take the right course of action after knowing what the people want,” he said.
Speakers at the gathering were unanimous that the chief minister relinquish office.