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Strikes shut Manipur, arson in Senapati

Imphal, Dec. 27: Violence was reported from Manipur’s hill district of Senapati in the wee hours today, as strikes and curfews shut down eight of the state’s nine districts.

Two Imphal-bound rice-laden trucks from Dimapur were set ablaze by supporters of the 72-hour bandh called by the United Naga Council (UNC) of Manipur in the state’s Naga-inhabited areas from midnight last night.

Police said one truck was completely destroyed while the other could be saved partially because of timely intervention by fire-tenders, police and CRPF personnel.

Barring these two incidents, the four Naga-dominated hill districts of Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati, which were affected by the bandh, remained peaceful. However, all shops and marketplaces remained closed and vehicles remained off the roads in these districts. “It is a total bandh,” a source close to the UNC said.

The UNC has called the bandh to protest alleged attacks on Nagas in the valley during the statewide indefinite general strike called by the Film Forum Manipur and the Manipur State Shumang Leela Council from December 21. Backed by citizens’ groups, the two organisations had called the strike to protest alleged molestation of film actress Momoco by a senior NSCN (I-M) functionary R.P. Livingstone during a musical concert at Chandel on December 18. The rebel leader had also fired at two co-artistes of the actress.

Imphal valley burnt during the strike with protesters pelting stones at and burning vehicles, and blocking roads, leading to pitched battles with the police. The strike, which completely dislocated transport services, prevented many people from the hills from returning home in time for Christmas. As police transported the stranded persons from Imphal to the hills, many protesters, defying curfew, stoned the buses, which injured several commuters.

A freelance television journalist, Th. Dwijamani alias Nanao, was killed as police fired to control protesters at Sinam Leikai in Imphal West district on December 23. The probe panel, constituted by the state government the next day to probe the death, began its inquiry today. It is headed by principal secretary (home) Suresh Babu. Dwijamani was hit by two bullets while covering the arson.

Alleging that the protest against the Momoco incident had turned communal and many Nagas were targeted during the strike, the UNC called the bandh.

The four valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur and Thoubal also remained shut during the daylong curfew imposed by the district administrations to prevent trouble during the general strike called by the two artistes’ organisations.

The strike, which began on December 21, was temporarily suspended from December 24 midnight in view of Christmas. It resumed from midnight last night and ended at 6 this evening. There was no report of any trouble during the day.

Though the general strike was cut short, the artistes’ groups said they would continue their agitation with sit-ins and street corner meetings.

Only Churachandpur, a Kuki-dominated hill district, remained normal today as it was not covered by the UNC bandh.

No curfew had been imposed here and the general strike had no impact.

The Tangkhul Naga Long, apex body of Tangkhuls, in a statement issued this evening reiterated that Nagas would not take the matter of the alleged rape attempt of a Naga girl by three persons, who claimed to be Kangleipak Communist Party cadres, on Christmas-eve at Napet Palli in Imphal East lying down.

Condemning the incident, they said it was revenge for the Momoco incident and added that “Nagas and Meiteis can never be together”.


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