The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quiet Imphal greets Kalam

New Delhi/Imphal, Oct. 16: Greeted by empty streets in Imphal today, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam may not have missed the message that Manipur wanted to convey but he skirted the issue that has kept the state on the boil.

Residents of Imphal remained indoors throughout the President’s stay in the state capital in deference to a general strike called by the Apunba Lup, which has been spearheading the campaign against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The militant Revolutionary People’s Front supported the strike.

At Manipur University, students, teachers, officials, ministers and MLAs listened to Kalam spouting homilies on development politics and the need to expand the scope of research to make India a developed nation by 2020. The President’s speech at the university’s 10th convocation did not contain any reference to either the army act or the agitation for its repeal.

However, the pageantry in Mao and Churachandpur made up for the lack of a colourful reception for Kalam in Imphal. People in traditional attire welcomed him at both places. Before leaving Imphal for Aizawl, Kalam interacted with children at Bunlon High School in Churachandpur and chatted with representatives of self-help groups at a Senapati food-processing unit.

In New Delhi, activists supporting Irom Sharmila’s hungerstrike campaign against the army act claimed that Union minister Oscar Fernandez had indicated a positive decision on the issue before the winter session of Parliament.

On Sunday afternoon, a day before he left for Amsterdam to resume negotiations with NSCN (I-M) leaders, Fernandez visited Sharmila at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to enquire about her condition. When Sharmila asked the minister to ensure that the issue of repealing the army act figures in the winter session of Parliament, Fernandez is understood to have replied that “it will not go even that far (till winter session)”.

“Action will be taken,” he was quoted as saying.

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