At least 22 cars, buses and other vehicles were torched in some places in Manipur's Imphal East district on Sunday by angry residents protesting against the Naga economic blockade and several incidents of militancy targeting security forces.
Following the heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours.
The curfew was imposed on Sunday afternoon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.
In Imphal West district, the major areas where violence flared up were around the area where three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening.
The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since 1 November after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state.
The blockade was imposed following the state government's announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. The UNC claims that the creation of new districts in the Naga dominated hill areas will encroach upon and divide the traditional land holdings of Naga tribes.
The blockade, however, has not only crippled trade and normal life in the state, it also stoked up the existing divide between the valley and the hill populace.
Tension in the state further heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People's Front on Friday.
In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area on Saturday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons.
According to a report in News 18, the violence and insurgency in the state — suspected to be carried out by various Naga outfits — has steeped in the recent past, even as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN(IM)) leadership claims that a political solution on the lines of Greater Nagalim is on the cards. The situation has worsened so much so that the Manipur Chief Minister urged the Centre in writing to snap all agreements with the NSCN(IM) and revoke the ceasefire at least in Manipur.
Thus, in the aftermath of the economic crisis and insurgency, a group of angry protesters on Sunday took to the streets and torched vehicles coming down from the Naga dominated hilly areas. Even as several vehicles were torched and vandalised, the arsonists did not target the vehicle drivers and passengers. The fire tenders and security forces, however, could not salvage the vehicles due to street blockades and protests.
Expressing the people's resentment against the blockade, activist A Rajen told IANS, "Since the central government is pampering the United Naga Council (UNC) and the militant outfit underpinning it, the situation is getting worse day by day. The Centre is a silent spectator to the indefinite economic blockade imposed against Manipur since 1 November."
The violence comes on a day when a state-wise bandh was called by various civil society groups in the state, including a group of women vendors of Khwairamband Bazaar. The protesters took out marches and forced all transport to stay off-road as they displayed placards saying "Remove NSCN-IM from Manipur", "Declare United Naga Council an unlawful organisation" among others, according to a PTI report.
Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation in Manipur following the three blasts on Friday and the subsequent call for state-wise bandh.
The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said.
All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 02, 2017 17:26:44 IST