IMPHAL: Protestors today torched the zonal education office (ZEO) in trouble-torn Churachandpur district even as the indefinite curfew which was clamped to control the situation was in force for the third day.
Police said the ZEO was set on fire this afternoon as a mark of protest against the passage of three bills in the state assembly on August 31.
Reports from Churachandpur quoting eyewitnesses said the building was reduced to ashes.
The situation was tense as the agitators gathered at vulnerable points defying curfew. Violence broke out in Churachandpur on August 31 and has claimed eight lives. Six houses belonging to a cabinet minister of Manipur, a Lok Sabha MP, the chairman of Hill Areas Committee of Manipur assembly and other four MLAs were also gutted.
An emergency cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh meeting and a subsequent one with Hill Area Committee yesterday reviewed the law and order situation arising out of the violence, said a press release issued by the chief minister's secretary Maniur.
In the release, which was made available to the press during the day, the government appealed to all sections of the people to maintain peace and calm in the state and assured that any difference may be discussed and settled across the table.
"Manipur deserves peace and tranquility for its people, especially the children and youth," it said and requested all stakeholders to come forward for discussions with the government to bring a solution to the present situation prevailing in the state.
In the release the government clarified that the three bills passed in the assembly do not infringe on the existing rights of the tribal community settled in the state and also do not impinge on the provision of Article 371C and thepresidential order of 1972 which provides for scheduled areas and matters as also the Manipur State Hill People Regulation, 1947.
It is also clarified that the present amendment of Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act does not extend to the hill areas. The violence is part of the protest against the passageof three bills - Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh amendment) Bill, 2015 and Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015.
The tribals fear that the passage of the bills would allow "outsiders" to have rights over tribal land and not protect the indigenous people.
Police said agitation against the bills has spread to other areas like Kangpokpi, Saparmeina, Saikul in Senapati district and to Tengoupal and international border town Moreh in Chandel district.
At Sapermeina the house of Manipur Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Ngamthang Haokip was torched by the agitators. The house of an MLA Nemcha Kigpen met the same fate at Kangpokpi, while at Saikul the house of Yamthang Haokip, another MLA was damaged since Monday.
In Chandel district the agitators blocked Imphal-Moreh portion of Asian Highway number one at Tengoupal and Kuki Students Organisation has called an indefinite Moreh bandh since yesterday in protest against the passing of the three bills.
Meanwhile, the state government has made elaborate security arrangement at Churachandpur town for tomorrow in view of the public meeting called by Joint Action Committee (JAC) formed during the day against the alleged brutal killing of the agitators by the police.
The JAC has also decided to take out procession after the meeting, sources said. Central paramilitary forces like Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF have been deployed, official sources said adding the state would utilise the services of central forces posted in Manipur if required to contain the situation.
The JAC comprising leaders of communities living in Churachandpur during its formation meeting decided not to claim the bodies of those killed in the agitation till their demand for withdrawal of the three bills was met by the government, the sources said.