The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arson in Manipur

Imphal, March 16: Arsonists suspected to be members of the organisations rooting for the adoption of the Meitei script in Manipur set ablaze a government building and a senior official's vehicle in Imphal East district, adding to the tension over the Apunba Lup's announcement of a renewed agitation against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Police said a mob set fire to the sub-deputy collector's office at Sawombung around 11 pm yesterday, destroying the building, important documents, furniture and guard's living quarters. The office building was gutted before fire-tenders reached the spot.

In another incident, a group of six youths went to the office of the State Apex Co-operative Housing Society, located at Chingmeirong, this afternoon and targeted the chairman's vehicle. They poured petrol on the Maruti Gypsy and set it ablaze before fleeing on two-wheelers. The incident occurred even as chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh was presenting the budget in the Assembly.

The demand to replace the Bengali script with the Meitei one has yet to be taken up by the government, which is believed to have angered the Meitei Erol Eyek Loinasillon Apunba Lup. Another organisation, the Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur, has now joined the campaign.

Both organisations have announced a 'boycott' of the Assembly session and threatened to block government vehicles and forcibly close down offices. ]

Sources in the Meitei Erol Eyek Loinasillon Apunba Lup said the organisation wanted the Assembly to adopt a resolution on replacing the Bengali script in school and college textbooks. As the budget session got under way yesterday, script activists set fire to a pile of books in the Bengali script near the gate to the chief minister's office.

The police are reportedly planning to round up leaders of the organisations behind the campaign. Nearly 200 activists were arrested and sent to Sajiwa Jail last month.

The Apunba Lup, a forum of 32 organisations involved in the crusade against the armed forces act, yesterday sent alarm bells ringing by declaring that it would resume the agitation with renewed vigour. After clamping a fresh ban on NCC activities and Hindi classes in educational institutions, the forum sent about 500 Hindi textbooks to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a symbolic announcement of its plans.

Sapamcha Kangleipal, one of the coordinators of the group, said it was a way of 'reminding Singh of our firm stand that the draconian law should be repealed immediately'. He said the textbooks were 'surrendered by schoolchildren'.

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