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Privilege notice against rights activist

Imphal, July 24: The Manipur Assembly admitted a notice to the privileges committee of the House against human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam and editor of a local news channel Y. Rupachandra over the rights activist’s remarks in a television discussion on the members of the House.

Moving the motion, Trinamul Congress member I. Ibohalbi Singh said Loitongbam termed all the MLAs as “meethingbol meetambal” (cowards), who failed to act during a live discussion in Rupachandra’s channel on July 22 on the issue of ongoing public movement for imposition of inner-line permit (ILP) in Manipur.

“His (Loitongbam) remark is breach of privilege and contempt of the House. He used unparliamentary and uncultured words, which calls for serious attention of the House,” Ibohalbi Singh said initiating the discussion on the issue.

Loitongbam, who is the executive director of the Human Rights Alert, Manipur, was commenting on the ongoing public movement for ILP.

Students agitating in support of ILP clash with police every day in Imphal in the past few days, to mount pressure on the state Assembly to take up the issue.

Students of Johnstone Higher Secondary School clashed with the police in front of the school gate yesterday. The police used tear gas shells and rubber bullets while students retaliated by throwing stones. Several students were injured.

A similar scene unfolded today at the two gates of D.M. College in Imphal.

Ibohalbi Singh said Loitongbam said the students were agitated as the MLAs failed to perform their duty on the issue of ILP and described the MLAs as “contractors.”

Assembly members cutting across party line expressed their anguish and consternation over Loitongbam’s remarks. They demanded exemplary punishment for lampooning the members while the House was in session.

The members maintained that the House took two resolutions to urge the Centre to impose ILP in Manipur, as only the Centre could impose it and the state could do nothing about it. The MLAs also said they were not silent on the issue.

“The remarks are contemptuous, slanderous and derogatory, which call for exemplary punishment,” public health engineering minister Irengbam Hemochandra Singh, who is also a former Speaker, said.

The members were also unhappy with comments by senior journalists, “lampooning and ridiculing” the ministers and MLAs during discussions in the local electronic media.

They demanded that the privilege committee should hear the matter immediately.

Rounding off the discussion Speaker Th. Lokeshwar Singh said the privilege notice deserved proper attention by the committee of the House. He announced that the matter was referred to the privilege committee, which is headed by Deputy Speaker M.K. Preshow Shimray.