IMPHAL: Violence and arson continued in Manipur's trouble-torn Churachandpur town where two government office buildings were burnt down by agitators while the four-day-old indefinite curfew was relaxed for some hours today.
Police said the two offices are located near each other and the agitators protesting against the passage of three bills in the assembly first set fire to the divisional employment exchange at Head Quarter Veng this afternoon. When they attempted to torch the sub-divisional officer's office, personnel of India Reserve Battalion under commanding officer N Manimohan Singh rushed to the area and tried to turn them away, police said.
A scuffle ensued between the two sides during which the IRB were totally outnumbered by the agitators.
The IRB personnel then fired in the air to disperse the protestors but the SDO office was forcibly torched by them from the opposite side.
Both buildings were reduced to ashes, the police said adding there was no report of any injury in the incident so far. Earlier in the day, one more person succumbed to his injuries sustained in the police firing taking the toll to eight. A Manipur government official said the toll was given out as eight yesterday and included a motorcyclist, who had died in a road accident.
The motorcyclist had skidded on the road at Churachandpur town while trying to avoid boulders strewn on the road by the agitators and had sustained head injuries on August 31. He was rushed to a private hospital where he succumbed to injuries, the official said. An official at the deputy commissioner's office saidcurfew has been relaxed in violence-hit Churachandpur town from 5 AM to 1 PM to enable the public to buy essentials. The preventive order was reimposed at 1 pm.
A public meeting was held during the day in the town by Joint Action Committee amidst tight security. Central paramilitary forces like Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF had been deployed to control the situation.
Policesaid the JAC, formed yesterday by communities living in Churachandpur, stuck to its decision 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.
However, the families of the dead said they might claim the bodies if compensation was given. The agitators had yesterday burnt down the Zonal Education Office at Churachandpur. Violence, which broke out in Churachandpur on Monday, has spread to other districts of the state resulting in gutting of 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.
The violence has been triggered by passage of 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. Tribals fear these legislations would allow "outsiders" to have rights over tribal land and not protect the indigenous people.
The government had yesterday clarified that the bills 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 the presidential order of 1972 which provides for scheduled areas and matters as also the Manipur State Hill People Regulation, 1947.