Tuesday, June 19, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

13 protesters die as Imphal burns
*Curfew imposed *Assembly torched *Speaker manhandled

Imphal, June 18
At least 13 persons were killed in police firing on tens of thousands of protesters on a rampage of arson and violence against the extension of ceasefire to the Naga-dominated areas of Manipur.

Hundreds were injured as the protesters set afire the Assembly Secretariat, Speaker’s bungalow, and the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on the third day of the 66-hour strike called by the All-Manipur Students Union against the extension of the truce.

More than 100 vehicles were gutted in the state capital till this afternoon, and the protesters set on fire at least 12 residences of former ministers in the state capital on which an indefinite curfew was imposed this morning. The residence of Union Minister Th. Chaoba Singh was also set afire.

The Assembly Speaker, Dr Sapam Dhananjoy Singh, and several MLAs were dragged outside the Assembly building and manhandled by the protesters.

They were trying to prevent the mob from setting fire to the Assembly building. The protesters then broke open the main gate of the complex, overpowered the security guards, sprinkled petrol and set it afire.

The two injured legislators — Mr N. Bihari Singh and Mr K.Tomba Singh — were stated to be out of danger.

The angry protesters also burnt down the offices of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, Manipur People’s Party and the Manipur State Congress Party. They also ransacked the offices of the BJP and the Samata Party.

Elsewhere, thousands of protesters surrounded Raj Bhavan demanding an audience with Governor Ved Marwah.

There were reports of large-scale violence in Thoubal and Chandel districts. No official confirmation was, however, available.

Curfew had also been extended to the areas adjoining the state capital, official sources said.

At least five ministerial quarters, including that of Union Minister for Food Processing Th. Chaoba Singh, in the Babupara and Lamphel areas were reduced to ashes.

The official residence of Governor’s adviser K. Kipgen was also burnt down and that of former Deputy Chief Minister L. Chandramani Singh and four other quarters were set ablaze by the mob at Lamphel. Vehicles of Th. Chaoba Singh were also gutted. The protesters snatched a .303 rifle from his security personnel.

At least 40 vehicles of former ministers and MLAs, residing in the Babupara area, were either gutted or damaged.

During the past two days the protesters have burnt thousands of effigies of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani and the government’s special envoy K.Padmanabhaiah in Imphal, Chandel, Senapati, Thoubal and Churachandpur districts of the state.

The situation in the state capital was described as tense with the security forces maintaining a strict vigil. Restrictions have been imposed on the movement of mediapersons within the state capital.

Thousands of demonstrators, including women, raising slogans “do not break up Manipur”, “no to ceasefire”, “we will die for Manipur”, laid siege to Raj Bhavan demanding an audience with Governor Ved Marwah as paramilitary forces from the Reserve Battalion, the CRPF and the Assam Rifles were deployed.

The protesters also barged into the Press Trust of India office but were persuaded by the staff not to harm it as the organisation was disseminating news about their activities to the outside world. Some protesters threw stones at the office gate.

The Congress today expressed serious concern over the developments in Manipur following the Centre’s decision to extend ceasefire beyond Nagaland and urged the NDA government to reconsider it to remove “avoidable doubts” in Manipur and Assam.

“We had opposed the expansion of ceasefire beyond Nagaland because we knew that it would create avoidable doubts in Manipur and Assam. Now the people in Manipur are deeply convulsed.... We demand the government reconsider its decision on the ceasefire”, Mr S Jaipal Reddy told reporters.

The party’s fear came true as doubts were created in Manipur and some other parts of the North-Eastern region about the move, he said and reiterated Congress commitment to the cause of territorial integrity of Manipur and other states of the region.

The Centre’s decision was another illustration of lack of political experience of the NDA government, more particularly when it comes to deal with sensitive areas like Manipur and Assam where fears have been aroused by the “lopsided” attempt about territorial integrity of these states, Mr Reddy said.

The Congress is quite happy with the extension of ceasefire in so far as it concerns Nagaland. We are, however, not happy with the expansion of ceasefire to Assam and Manipur,” he said adding “we would like the government to reconsider it”. UNI, PTI



No hidden agenda, says BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
The BJP today strongly defended the Vajpayee government’s decision to extend the Naga ceasefire outside Nagaland in the North-East and dubbed as “unfounded” the apprehensions in certain quarters that the Centre’s decision had some “hidden agenda”.

“There are fears that the Naga-inhabited areas in north-eastern states would be included in some kind of a greater Nagaland following the ceasefire...We would like to state that speculations in this regard are totally unfounded and that there is no plan to divest any portion of Manipur or any other state and include them in the state of Nagaland,” BJP spokesman and general secretary Sunil Shastri told newspersons here.


More forces rushed to Manipur
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
The Centre today said it was maintaining a close watch on the situation in Manipur and has rushed “adequate” additional central paramilitary forces to control violent protests of the people in the state capital Imphal against the extending of Centre-NSCN (I-M) ceasefire to other states in the North-East outside Nagaland.

According to reports received here, at least five persons have been killed and several have been injured, including the Manipur Assembly Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy Singh, and four MLAs in the mob frenzy.

“The situation in Manipur, where large-scale civil protest is on, is tense but now under control. Additional central paramilitary forces are being rushed from neighbouring states to control the situation,” a Home Ministry spokesman told newspersons here.

The spokesman said since it was a civil protest, the local police, paramilitary forces, Assam Rifles and Manipur Rifles personnel deployed are taking utmost restrain in controlling violent demonstrators.

Clarifying that the Manipur Assembly Speaker and four other MLAs were not injured in police firing and that they were attacked by violent protesters, the spokesman said curfew had been clamped in Imphal and Army was conducting flag-march in worst-affected areas.

To a question, whether the Centre did not anticipate such a violent reaction to the extension of ceasefire, the spokesman merely said “we did anticipate some trouble here and there.”

However, he refused to comment on whether the Centre would review the ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (I-M) in the wake of these protests and also opposition from some other states, especially Assam.

The spokesman also maintained that widespread consultations were made with the Chief Ministers of North-Eastern states on the extension of the ceasefire and efforts were made to convince them before the signing of the ceasefire agreement.

“It was felt that to a great extent they (Chief Ministers) understood the necessity for the extension of the ceasefire to Naga-inhabited areas in other states though they were not in total concurrence,” he said.

He reiterated that there should not be any misconception over the territorial integrity of North-Eastern states viz-a-viz the extension of ceasefire and said even the national agenda of governance stressed that territorial integrity of North-Eastern states would be maintained.


Fernandes rues situation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
The former Defence Minister and Samata Party leader, Mr George Fernandes, today termed the largescale violence in Manipur and the torching of the Assembly as an “unfortunate incident”.

“All political parties in the state are against the extension of ceasefire to the NSCN (IM) by the Centre,” Mr Fernandes told mediapersons here today.

He returned to the Capital after a two-day visit to the state, where sentiments of the people are against the extension of truce beyong Nagaland.

Asked whether he would call for an NDA meeting to discuss the situation in the state, Mr Fernandes replied, “at the moment it is not necessary.”

He said “I would certainly discuss the issue with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and then decide whether to call for a NDA meeting or not.”

Violence erupted in the state as people came out defying prohibitory orders and burnt effigies of Mr Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani, Centre’s emissary Padmanabiah and NSCN (IM) leaders Issac Chisi Swu and Thingaleng Muivah.

A 36-hour bandh call has been given by the All-Manipur Students Union and 83 social organisations against the extension of ceasefire.

Asked whether the imposition of President’s rule in the state was justified, Mr Fernandes said “the Centre had to act and it had no other alternative.”

Central rule was imposed in Manipur on June 2 after political uncertainty.


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