Ukhrul, Aug. 30: Two persons died and at least 10 were injured in a clash between protesters and security forces in Ukhrul town, 70km from Imphal, the state capital, this afternoon.
The protests had begun at 10.30am in response to a call by the United Naga Council, the apex body of the Nagas in Manipur, demanding lifting of the indefinite curfew clamped in Ukhrul district two months back. They wanted the Centre to expedite an “acceptable and honourable settlement” of the “Indo-Naga political issue”.
The demonstrators were also protesting against deployment of security forces in the Naga areas, particularly in Ukhrul district, by the state government “in utter disrespect of the Indo-Naga ceasefire”, the state government’s “disrespect for the tripartite talks” between the Centre, state government, and the United Naga Council on an alternative (administrative) arrangement “which has progressed to a logical stage” and the state government’s policies that encroached upon the ancestral land of the Nagas and other indigenous communities. The ceasefire was signed between the Centre and the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the NSCN, which came into effect in 1997 and 2001 respectively.
The rally initially saw prayers and speeches for “peace in the Naga areas, settlement of the Indo-Naga issue and fulfilment of their dream (of an alternative administrative arrangement for the Nagas in Manipur)”. It was towards the end, when one of the leaders of the protesters read out a memorandum (it was supposed to be read out by UNC general secretary Gaidon Kamei but it was not clear who read it out) and the police intervened as Section 144 CrPC was in place, that trouble began.
Angry protesters fought with the police and India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel and allegedly snatched two AK-rifles.
Eyewitnesses said the protesters set on fire two vehicles carrying police personnel. As their colleagues rushed to rescue them and the personnel whose vehicles had been set ablaze escaped, the protesters started hurling stones at them.
To bring the situation under control, the security forces fired blank shots in the air and then tear gas shells and rubber bullets. Eyewitnesses said as the road was rough and the security personnel were firing from their vehicles, they may have hit some protesters. One of the protesters was hit on the face by a tear gas shell and died on the way to hospital while the second was hit in the neck by a bullet and died on the spot. One person, who was hit in the chest, has been admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal.
The injured protesters were taken to Ukhrul district hospital, 3km from the site of the clash.
Manipur has nine — four valley and five hill — districts. Most of the hill districts, including Ukhrul, are inhabited by the Naga and Kuki communities. The Naga community constitutes the majority in Ukhrul. The Naga community has been demanding a separate administrative set-up within Manipur, which has been opposed by the state government. Section 144 CrPC was imposed for an indefinite period in Ukhrul district two months back after a member of the Ukhrul Autonomous District Council, Murshalung, was killed allegedly by NSCN (I-M) militants.