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Pranab tour belies hopes

- President silent on issues affecting Manipur

Imphal, April 16: President Pranab Mukherjee’s two-day visit to Manipur left many rights groups and citizen bodies here disappointed as he did not touch on any major issues confronting the state in his speech at the golden jubilee celebration of Adimjati Shiksha Ashram yesterday.

The President arrived here yesterday as part of his maiden Northeast tour and left Imphal this morning for Sikkim.

He attended the golden jubilee celebrations of Adimjati Shiksha Ashram, in Imphal city, inaugurated a hall and a Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) hostel and laid the foundation stones of a tribal working girls’ hostel and a tribal boys’ hostel inside the ashram complex.

He had a dinner with governor Gurbachan Jagat, chief minister Ibobi Singh and the council of ministers at Raj Bhavan in the evening. Deserted Imphal streets greeted the President, as the capital town remained shut responding to a general strike called by a co-ordination committee of six militant groups to boycott the visit.

During his barely half-an-hour address at the golden jubilee celebrations, Mukherjee did not touch on major issues like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, fake encounter killings by security forces and militancy in the state. The President recalled the Manipuris’ fight against British aggression and spoke about the state’s culture and welfare programmes taken up by the UPA government at the Centre. He said the Northeast was not getting the benefits of the socio-economic transformation taking place across the country and urged the region to make collective efforts to reap the benefits.

Organisations like the United NGO Mission, Manipur, a network of groups working for human rights and peace building had expected that the President would say something on the issue of the army act and militancy.

Two days ahead of the visit, the NGO group petitioned the President to repeal the army act and also bring a political solution to the problem of militancy.

“Had the President been concerned about the problem of Manipur, he would have said something to resolve the problem of militancy and other issues like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The President’s silence on the issues has indicated that the New Delhi does not want to settle the problems and wants to maintain status quo,” U. Nobokishore, secretary of the NGO network, said.

Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, also expressed his disappointment at the President’s failure to mention the issue of the army act and cases of fake encounter killings pending in the Supreme Court. He is one of the petitioners to the Supreme Court that led to the probe of six cases of alleged fake encounter killings by Justice N. Santosh Hegde Commission. It found all the cases to be fake encounter killings.

The United Naga Council, in a memorandum submitted to the President, urged him to consider its demand for an alternative administrative arrangement for the Nagas living in Manipur outside the purview of Manipur government.