Ukl/Kpi/Spt, Apr 6: After three leaders of the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) were arrested this morning, the student body has shut down all hill districts indefinitely starting today.
The arrests this morning by the police came a day after ATSUM began its stir against Government withholding elections to the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs). Yesterday, ATSUM along with several other student bodies including the KSO (Kuki Students’ Organisation) had picketed several Government offices in the hill districts.
Meanwhile, the Government has invited ATSUM for a talk this evening (at 5.30) at the official quarter of YAS Minister Letpao Haokip in his presence and others including PHE Minister L Dikho and Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Vungjagin Valte.
On the other hand, the total shutdown paralysed normal life in the hill districts including Ukhrul, Tengnoupal, Senapati and partly affected Kangpokpi district.
Largely peaceful, the stir shut down markets and restricted all vehicular movements in Ukhrul.
Demanding unconditional release of the arrested leaders, volunteers of ATSUM tried to prevent Ukhrul Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pauline Kamson from attending his office.
The Deputy Commissioner then personally invited TKS (Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong) leaders for a talk in his office chamber in the presence of Superintendent of Police Ajit Kumar Sharma and Sub Divisional Officers (SDOs).
Joseph Pauline Kamson listened to the demands and grievances of the agitators and expressed his personal concern, and further urged the student leaders to settle issues through dialogues.
The TKS representatives expressed their stance and demanded immediate release of the arrested ATSUM leaders without any condition attached.
During the meeting, they asserted their agitation and the total shutdown would continue till their demands are met.
At Moreh, the Kuki Students’ Organisation enforced the total shutdown from 10 am. Volunteers blocked Imphal-Moreh road and closed all markets, schools, colleges and Government offices. Vehicular movements were also restricted. KSO Tengnoupal enforced the shutdown at the district headquarters, reports our correspondent.
Along with KSO and the All Naga Students' Association Manipur (ANSAM), the Senapati District Students Association (SDSA) imposed the shutdown at Senapati district.
All business establishments in the district headquarters were closed. Trucks and other passenger vehicles were left stranded on the highway. Only media and medical emergency services were relaxed from the purview of the shutdown.
Saloni Tony, finance secretary, SDSA said the association is backing ATSUM in its stir and demanded immediate and unconditional release of the arrested leaders.
In Kangpokpi, KSO Sadar Hills and other student bodies enforced the shutdown restricting vehicular movements. Buses and loaded trucks were stranded on the highway at Gamphai, however they were given free passage in the afternoon.
While business establishments were seen closed at Kalapahar, Keithelmanbi, Saparmeina, Motbung etc, Kangpokpi town was open throughout the day. Some other places also saw shops opening in the afternoon.
Overall, the shutdown affected Kangpokpi district partially, vehicular traffic, especially inter State passenger buses and trucks was sparse.
Thangtinlen Haokip, general secretary of KSO Sadar Hills meanwhile said the ATSUM’s shutdown will continue tomorrow but it will exempt the Hun festival goers. The Thadou’s biggest cultural festival (Hun) will be celebrated at Kangpokpi DHQs.
On the other hand, a police source claimed that the shutdown call had little effect in Tamenglong, Chandel, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts. There was no bandh in Tamenglong, Chandel, Motbung and Kangpokpi. The markets at Tamenglong and Tengnoupal bazar were opened.
The situation at Tengnoupal HQs was normal and shops were opened with normal traffic, the source claimed.
Meanwhile, many organisations including the Chandel Naga Peoples Organisation (CNPO), Tamenglong Village Students’ Federation (TVSF), All College Tribal Students’ Union Imphal have strongly condemned the arrests of the ATSUM executives and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
In a statement, the CNPO said the executives of the ATSUM were arrested by the police from their homes this morning.
“This arbitrary arrest is a blatant breach of the democratic rights of the student body to protest against malfunctioning and lies of the ruling Government... The demands of ATSUM represent the aspirations of the common tribals of the State. Repeated lies and false promises of the ruling Government have been exposed and all the right-thinking public should decry the unlawful arrest of the ATSUM leaders,” it said.
If not released by midnight today (April 6), the All College Tribal Students’ Union Imphal (ACTSUI) said it will hold protests in all Government colleges within Imphal.
Notably, no untoward incidents were reported today.