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Protesters return to Kangla

Imphal, Jan. 25: A demonstration by a group of women activists on the eve of Republic Day outside the Kangla Fort today brought back memories of a dozen women disrobing at this site nearly a decade back to protest against “atrocities” committed by security forces.

At that time, Kangla Fort was the headquarters of Assam Rifles, where 12 elderly women had disrobed and shouted, “Indian army rape us, Indian army take our flesh”, stunning the country and the world.

The custodial killing of Thangjam Manorama, a young girl from Imphal East after alleged rape in July 2004, had triggered the unprecedented parade. Today, the women activists, numbering about 50, chanted slogans, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act outside the western gate of the fort. The saluting base of the Republic Day marchpast is located inside Kangla Fort, about 300 metres from the protest site. The demonstration took place as government authorities were preparing the base where Manipur governor V.K. Duggal will receive the salute from the marching contingents tomorrow.

“Repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act”, the women chanted. Some of the dozen protesters who had taken part in the 2004 parade were also present today. At the stroke of 12.30pm, the protesters appeared at the gate, displayed three posters, which read, “Indian army rape us,” “We trusted you (Manmohan Singh), you betrayed us,” and “Repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” and started shouting slogans.

This year marks the completion of a decade since the Prime Minister made his promise from Kangla Fort to replace the army act with a more “humane” legislation.

“Manmohan Singh made this promise after the Manorama episode and led to the people’s uprising subsiding, as we trusted in the Prime Minister’s words. Ten years have passed since then but he has done nothing. So, we held the demonstration to remind him of the promise,” Thokchom Ramani, one of the dozen who disrobed in 2004, said.

Police did not lose much time in arriving at the scene of the protest but they did not intervene immediately. After surveying the scene for sometime, they moved in and snatched away the posters. Later, the protesters dispersed.

Today’s demonstration marked the beginning of a fresh phase of the campaign against the army act in Manipur. Sources in citizen’s groups said the demonstration was the result of a course of action charted by a working committee of the groups. More such demonstrations would follow, they said.


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