Imphal, June 18: A part of Manipur went to work on the sixth anniversary of the June uprising, after the Okram Ibobi Singh government decided not to declare the day a holiday.
Eighteen people were killed on June 18 in 2001 when they were protesting against the Centre’s decision to extend its ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) without specifying any territorial limit.
The United Committee, Manipur, and the All Manipur United Clubs Organisations have since been observing the day as “Integrity Day” every year to pay tribute to the victims and also reaffirm their resolve to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur.
Keeping popular sentiment in mind, the Ibobi Singh government had declared June 18 a general holiday in 2005.
This provoked the United Naga Council (UNC) into terming the uprising as “vandalism” and said it was against the Nagas’ aspirations for peace. In protest, the UNC imposed a 52-day economic blockade on the state’s two lifelines — Imphal-Kohima and Imphal-Jiribam highways — leading to an acute food crisis in the state.
The UNC agitation was called off after negotiations with the government.
Since June 18 fell on a Sunday last year, there was no question of declaring a special holiday.
An official source said this time the Ibobi Singh government decided not to declare it a holiday to avoid a 2005-like situation.
All offices functioned as usual today, though attendance was reportedly thin.
But shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed in the capital city as people from different communities, including the Nagas, paid floral tributes at the victims’ memorial stones at Kekrupat.
Ministers, including food and civil supplies minister Th. Devendra Singh, chief minister in-charge and PCC president Gaikhangam were present at the memorial service.
For the first time, leaders of the All Manipur United Clubs Organisations and the United Committee, Manipur jointly paid floral tributes at the site.
The organisations have held separate programmes for the past few years.
A threat from the families of the victims and senior citizens to boycott all programmes if the organisations paid their tributes separately brought leaders together.
However, the organisations held separate meetings to discuss issues concerning Manipur.
While the United Committee, Manipur programme was held at Kekrupat, the All Manipur United Clubs Organisations organised its programme at Thau ground, not very far from Kekrupat.
Speakers belonging to different communities, including Nagas, called for unity, integrity and equality at the two programmes.
Theatre personality Rathan Thiyam called upon all communities to shun ethnic differences and work together. Thiyam had returned the Padmashree award in protest against the extension of ceasefire.