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M’pur institutions shut for 3 weeks
IMPHAL, OCT 2 (IANS):
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Published on 3 Oct. 2009 1:01 AM IST
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Students and guardians in India’s restive northeastern state of Manipur are at their wits’ end with all educational institutions shut down for the past three weeks and the government doing very little about it. The All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) called for an indefinite closure of all schools and colleges Sep 9, demanding resignation of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to protest against the alleged extra judicial killing of a youth in July. “It is unfortunate that the government is not taking any step to break the deadlock. The future of the students is at great risk as this is the peak academic session and there are no classes for more than three weeks now,” said Aruna Devi, mother of three school going children. Angry parents are now blaming both the AMSU and the government for jeopardising the future of thousands of students. “In the first place, the AMSU should not have dragged the students to take part in an indefinite shutdown. And it is also pathetic on the part of the government to have failed to break the deadlock three weeks after the agitation was launched,” said Moni Singh, a local businessman with two school going children. Education minister L. Jayenta Kumar termed the decision of class boycott by the AMSU as unfortunate. “The AMSU’s decision is simply unreasonable as they are holding the students to ransom by calling the shutdown,” the minister said. “We are trying our best to break the deadlock and are ready to talk with the agitating groups.” But the AMSU and other groups led by the Apunba Lup, a conglomerate of civil society groups, spearheading an agitation since July seeking resignation of the chief minister for alleged extra judicial killings, are refusing to hold talks with the government. Manipur is becoming a lawless region with both state and non-state actors wreaking havoc -- militants pulling down hospitals, killing government officials and Hindi-speakers, extorting money from temples, while fake encounter killings continue to rock the region. Last month, about 200 militants in eight trucks descended at Nongpok Sekmai village in Manipur’s Thoubal district and used a hijacked excavator to pull down a government hospital. The bizarre reason given for razing the structure was that the hospital was a symbol of the government. There are instances of militants in Manipur extorting money from priests as well. “Militants are forcibly taking a percentage from donations and offerings given to various temples,” said Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, admitting the reign of terror unleashed by separatists in the state. Capital punishment meted out by militant groups in Manipur has now become almost routine -- from drug peddlers to alleged corrupt officials, the rebels spare none. Residents admit that the state of 2.4 million people is fast turning into a lawless region with militants dictating terms and the security forces killing innocent civilians in fake encounters. The civil administration virtually does not exist in many places. Six people were killed by the police last month near Awang Khunou village in Imphal West district -- two riding a motorcycle and four others in a vehicle. Police maintain the encounter took place after the two motorcycle-borne youths and the four people on a Tata Sumo vehicle refused to stop when asked by a security patrol on the highway. Four of the six killed have since been identified by their families who now claim they were innocent civilians and that it was a fake encounter -- two of them earned a living selling mobile phone recharge vouchers, another was a rickshaw puller and the fourth a driver by profession. There were protests and sit-in-demonstrations in the area with locals forming a joint action committee demanding a judicial enquiry into the incident. Manipur is in turmoil since July 23 following an alleged fake encounter death of 27-year-old Chongkham Sanjit and a pregnant woman in the heart of capital Imphal. The immediate provocation for the string of protests was the publication of a set of photographs that punctured the security forces’ claim that they had killed the youth following a gunfight. The photographs clearly revealed that security forces took the youth, Chongkham Sanjit, inside a pharmacy in Imphal and then his dead body was brought out. “It is a Catch-22 type of situation here where civilians are gasping for survival with both state and non state actors unleashing a reign of terror,” Dilip Singh, a rights activist, said. There are some 20 militant groups active in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.

 
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