Imphal, Oct. 13: The Okram Ibobi Singh government today managed to stave off one crisis by foiling an attempt by women protesters to storm the Raj Bhavan. But it faced another immediately afterwards when the Apunba Lup announced its decision to boycott President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit to Manipur on Monday.
Contrary to the tense build-up, today’s peaceful protest was a mere shadow of the 2004 uprising that triggered the campaign against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Even the protesters showed very little resolve and did not even put up a semblance of resistance when policemen, armed to the teeth, snatched their placards and pushed them back.
Anticipating widespread trouble, several shops in the city had downed shutters. But not a shot was fired, nor teargas shells burst.
Armed policemen, who had formed a ring around Raj Bhavan, pushed back slogan-shouting protesters, mostly women, marching towards the governor’s house to demonstrate at the gate. The protesters made a feeble effort to fight back when lathi-wielding policemen stopped them before they could reach the Raj Bhavan gates. The marchers’ demands included an end to “state terrorism”, repeal of the army act and save activist Irom Sharmila.
Responding to a call from the Apunba Lup that spearheaded the 2004 uprising against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a few hundred protesters came from three different directions towards Raj Bhavan around noon. The police stopped them at two places — Sanjenthong, near the chief minister’s office and Keishampat crossing — nearly 500 metres from the Raj Bhavan gates.
Other reports said activists marching towards the offices of deputy commissioners in Thoubal and Bishenpur districts were also pushed back. A mass sit-in was held at Keishampat of Imphal. It was led by Opposition MLA L. Ibomcha Singh. The police did not disturb the demonstration.
Unlike two years back when the death of Thangjam Manorama in Assam Rifles custody triggered a violent campaign for two months, today’s “uprising” against the army act was a very tame affair. “Thank god, we did not need to use this gun. We had expected a pitched battle,” said a policeman .
But the Apunba Lup kept up the pressure by announcing that it would call a general strike from 5 am to 2 pm on October 16 throughout Manipur to boycott Kalam.
The President is scheduled to attend a convocation programme of Manipur University at 9 am. He will also visit a passion fruit processing unit at Mao in Senapati district and a private school in Churachandpur district before leaving Imphal the same day.