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Clashes in Manipur’s Churachandpur venue of CM’s deferred rally

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IMPHAL, April 28 (PTI): Clashes erupted between demonstrators and police at Sadbhavna Mandap in Manipur’s New Lamka Town in Churachandpur district on Friday, the venue where chief minister N Biren Singh was scheduled to address a public meeting.

Singh had earlier in the day indicated his plans to visit Churachandpur had been deferred at the request of the organisers following protests and a 8-hour bandh called by local tribals protesting eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest areas.

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Officials said that police were forced to lob tear gas shells to disperse a large crowd which had gathered and was pelting stones at security forces deployed to keep the peace in the bandh hit town.

“There were no injuries despite the stone pelting. Deployment of forces will continue to oversee the situation,” officials said.

The chief minister was scheduled to address a public meeting at Sadbhavna Mandap and inaugurate an open gym at PT Sports complex, both in New Lamka town.

However, on Thursday a protesting mob had attacked the venue and set fire to about a 100 chairs and other equipment.

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Singh said his plans to visit Churachandpur district have been deferred after the local legislator who had invited him decided to postpone the function.

“The local MLA had invited me to a celebration and to inaugurate the open gym,” the CM told reporters on the sidelines of an agriculture department function here.

“LM Khaute, MLA from Churachandpur constituency has requested me not to come now and said the open gym will be repaired soon,” Singh said.

Singh also questioned the “indigenousness” of the organisation Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) which called the 8-hour shutdown and said “What indigenous people. We are indigenous people. Nagas are indigenous people. Kukis are indigenous people. What indigenous tribal?”

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Meanwhile, prohibitory order has been clamped and mobile internet services have been suspended in Churachandpur district.

The district magistrate of Churachandpur based on a report from the superintendent of police that there is a likelihood of breach of peace, disturbance to public tranquillity and grave danger to human lives and public properties clamped prohibitory order under Section 144 of CrPC in the tribal-dominated district.

An order issued by the home department said “to prevent any disturbance to the peace and order the suspension of mobile internet services shall be in force for the next five days with immediate effect in Churachandpur and Pherzawl districts.”

The 8-hour shutdown of Churachandpur district called by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ILTF) to protest the eviction of Kuki villagers from protected forests paralysed normal life in the tribal-dominated southern Manipur district on Friday.

New Lamka town wore a deserted look as all private and public vehicles kept off the road except for those of security personnel.

Markets were closed with all shops and establishments pulling down their shutters, police said.

Protesters were seen blocking roads and burning tyres in the morning. They had also piled up debris at the entrance gate of the New Lamka town but this was later cleared by police teams.

A huge police force has been deployed at all major junctions and large localities of the town to prevent any unwanted activities, an official said.

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