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Unrest spirals in Manipur over bills

Women activists protest in Imphal on Monday. (PTI)

Imphal, May 30: The ongoing public unrest demanding the President's assent to three bills passed by the Manipur Assembly intensified today with supporters blocking the roads and students protesting on streets.

College students also threatened to join the agitation in support of the bills while women's organisations announced that they would join the movement from tomorrow.

Spearheaded by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit (ILP) System, civil society organisations and people in the valley have been agitating to force the Okram Ibobi Singh government and political parties to take up the bill issue with the Centre.

The current phase of agitation began after Ibobi Singh failed to take a political delegation to Delhi to meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh seeking the President's assent to the bills.

An all-party meet held on May 9 resolved to depute a political delegation to Delhi led by Ibobi Singh to seek the President's assent to the bills. The failure of the chief minister to take the delegation angered the bill supporters.

Following an intense agitation by the joint committee, the Manipur Assembly unanimously passed the Protection of Manipur People Bill, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill and Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second amendment) Bill on August 31.

The bills are now awaiting the President's assent.

Today, the bill supporters turned out on the streets at various localities in the valley, blocking traffic. School students also left classes and held demonstrations in the streets in and around Imphal city.

The bill supporters were provoked by crackdowns on agitating students by police on Saturday and yesterday. More than 20 students were injured in crackdowns at Kwakeithel on the outskirts of the city on Saturday. Altogether 15 students were hospitalised after the police used water cannons to disperse the students in Imphal city yesterday.

The police action angered people, leading to road blocks at various places today. Women organisations today announced that they would join the agitation from tomorrow to protest the police action.

"The police are committing excesses while dealing with the students. We will join the agitation from tomorrow," L. Memchoubi, an activist, told reporters.

Similarly, students from 10 colleges in the valley today joined hands in support of the bills.

"The political party's delegation should visit Delhi by June 2. If they fail to do so by the deadline, the students of the 10 colleges will join the agitation from the next day," said Dhanachandra Khaidem, a spokesman for the students.

He said the students would shut down the administrative blocks of the colleges and would boycott if any examination came up.

The Ibobi Singh government deployed police personnel, equipped with adequate tear gas and smoke bombs.

The agitators marching towards the chief minister's office at Babupara were blocked by the police at various points.


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