| Women protest the molestation of a girl in Imphal East at a sit-in on Wednesday. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, Dec. 26: Protests over molestation shifted to Manipur hills today with residents of 10 Naga villages in Senapati district giving post-Christmas programmes a miss for a sit-in, demanding punishment to the three goons who molested a girl from the hill district in Imphal East district on Monday.
The state also saw resumption of the artistes’ strike from midnight tonight over the alleged molestation of Manipuri actress Momoco while the United Naga Council of Manipur imposed a 72-hour bandh at the same time in the Naga-inhabited areas of the state to protest alleged attacks on Nagas during the strike. The bandh will stop supply of essential commodities from outside Manipur.
Imphal valley was on the boil for the past few days as people protested the alleged molestation of Momoco by senior NSCN (I-M) functionary R.P. Livingstone during a concert in Chandel on December 18.
Film Forum Manipur and Manipur State Shumang Leela Council, which had called the statewide general strike from December 21, had suspended it from December 24 in view of Christmas. They resumed the strike from midnight tonight. It will conclude at 6pm tomorrow.
Protesters in the valley had continued to block roads despite suspension of the strike and are likely to continue to hold sit-ins and street-corner meetings even after the strike is lifted to demand Livingstone’s arrest. The state government has already announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh on the rebel leader.
Though no trouble was reported from the valley today, the Okram Ibobi Singh government has imposed curfew in the four valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur and Thoubal from 6am till 6pm tomorrow, apprehending trouble in view of the resumed strike.
The strike had prevented many people from the hills, studying or working in the valley, to return in time for Christmas. Police had to transport hundreds of stranded persons from Imphal to the hills in buses. Many protesters, defying curfew, had stoned these buses, as a result of which several commuters sustained injuries. A television journalist was killed in a firing resorted to by the police to control protesters in Imphal West district.
During the strike on Monday evening, three goons, posing as Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) cadres, had stopped a group of 13 students at Napet Palli in Imphal East district. The students, who study in Imphal, were returning home to Rishophung and Leishiphung villages in Saikul subdivision of Senapati district on foot for Christmas. One of the goons isolated one of girls and allegedly molested her. The three fled after fellow students and local meira paibis (women’s group) intervened on hearing the girl’s cry for help.
“The three stopped us. One of them said he was a colonel of KCP. They separated our brothers from us. The man who claimed to be a colonel took one of the girls at a distance and molested her. He tried to rape our sister,” Asamla Siro, one of the girls in the student group, told reporters today.
Residents of 10 Naga villages staged a sit-in at Rishophung, 29km from Imphal, from 10am to 4pm to demand punishment to the culprits. They shouted slogans and demanded steps to prevent such incidents in future.
“We strongly protest the incident. Because of the incident we could not celebrate Christmas happily. We are supposed to celebrate the festival today also. Instead, we are spending the day protesting,” a woman leader of Rishophung, Premna Jajo, said.
The police had arrested the three persons yesterday after they were identified by the students and had also recovered five mobile phones they had taken from the students.
Tangkhul Naga Long, apex body of Tangkhul Nagas, the Film Forum Manipur, the Manipur State Shumang Leela Council and civil society organisations, including women’s groups in the valley, have condemned the incident in Imphal East and demanded severe punishment for the three culprits.