Violence escalates in Manipur as mob set ablaze education office

New Delhi: Violence escalated in Manipur's riot-hit Churachandpur district on Wednesday as an unruly mob set ablaze the zonal education office, an official said. There was no immediate report of any casualty.

The protest against the Congress-led government in Manipur also spilled over in New Delhi, with students under the banner of Manipur Tribal Students in Delhi demanded the imposition of President's Rule in the state. "The zonal education office in Churachandpur has been reduced to ashes as the mob continued to go on rampage setting ablaze the structure," the official said.

The mob, suspected to comprise members of civil society groups, have been attacking public property following the Manipur government's adoption of three landmark bills -- Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (seventh amendment) Bill 2015, and Manipur Shops and Establishment (second amendment) Bill 2015 on August 31.

At least eight people have been killed and more than 30 injured after violence erupted on Monday after the mob attacked residences of five Congress lawmakers, including that of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Outer Manipur Lok Sabha member Thangsoi Baite. They were not home when the attacks took place.

The mob also set ablaze a police station in Churachandpur on Tuesday, leading to the death of three people after police opened fire in self-defence. Tribal civil society groups -- All Tribal Students Union Manipur, Kuki Students Organisation and All Naga Students Association Manipur -- opposed the introduction of the bills, saying they overlapped with article 371C of the constitution and some points in the Manipur Hill People Administration Regulation Act, 1947, meant to safeguard the interest of tribesmen in the hill areas of Manipur.

Authorities had also suspended internet services from Tuesday to check the spread of rumours aimed at causing trouble, even as curfew has been clamped in the district to contain the law and order situation. In Delhi, the Manipur Tribal Students staged a protest at Jantar Mantar and demanded imposition of President's Rule and deployment of central forces in hill areas of Manipur after the violence erupted in Churachandpur.

The students' body also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office and met Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju pressing for imposition of the central rule in Manipur. Appealing to everyone to maintain calm, the Manipur government said the three bills do not infringe on the rights of the tribal communities.

Ashok Kumar, the secretary to Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, said the amendment of Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act does not extend to the hill areas and does not alter the present status of tribal land. "There seems to be misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the provisions of the bills leading to tragic incidents, causing tremendous losses including human lives," Kumar said.

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