GUWAHATI: The situation in Manipur’s Churachandpur district continued to remain tense with unidentified miscreants setting a government building on fire, even as night curfew was imposed in the district from Saturday, officials said.
The authorities on Saturday imposed a night curfew from 5 pm to 5 am until further orders even as the ban on large gatherings in Churachandpur and suspension of mobile internet services in Churachandpur and adjoining Pherzawl district continued.
The miscreants on Friday night torched the office building of a range forest officer at Tuibong in the district. The incident followed pitched battles fought between protestors and police personnel in Churachandpur town, located 63 km away from state capital Imphal.
Public property worth lakhs was reportedly destroyed and official documents burnt in the blaze, a police officer said. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC and suspension of mobile internet services will also continue in the district, the officials said.The locals claimed that over a dozen demonstrators were injured.
The incidents of violence were triggered after the tribals launched fresh protests against the state government's action against the illegal poppy cultivators and destroying poppy fields in the forest land, especially in the reserve and protected forests in the hilly areas.
Director General of Manipur Police P Doungel and senior officials on Saturday visited Churachandpur district and reviewed the situation.
A police officer in Imphal said that the situation is still grim though heavy security measures have been taken to prevent fresh incidents of violence.
Veteran Congress leader and three-time former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and state Congress president K. Meghachandra Singh criticised the BJP government and Chief Minister for the "wrong policy in dealing with the tribals and forest lands".
After Thursday's incidents of violence, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh cancelled his Friday's visit to Churachandpur district.
Biren Singh was scheduled to address a public gathering at Sadbhavna Mandap in New Lamka Town in Churachandpur on Friday and inaugurate an open gym at PT Sports complex.
Saying that his government is committed to protecting people from the drug menace, the Chief Minister on Saturday reiterated that poppy cultivation in the state would be completely wiped out.
The BJP government in the state would not allow poppy cultivation and has been taking continued actions against those involved in such plantations, he told the media.
Vandalisation occurred and clashes erupted between demonstrators and police at Sadbhavna Mandap on Thursday night, leading security forces to lob tear gas shells to disperse a large crowd of local tribals, who also pelted stones at security forces deployed to keep the peace in the bandh-hit town.
There was no major injury on either side.
Police claimed that the Myanmarese, who illegally entered into the state, were also involved in the arson incident.
Biren Singh said in Imphal that police would take stern action against the trouble makers.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) has called for an eight-hour shutdown in Churachandpur district on Friday from 8 a.m. to protest the state government's eviction drive from the protected and reserve forests.
The ITLF in a statement said that they had submitted several memoranda to the state government expressing their grievances and apprehensions about the survey carried out by the government pertaining to reserve forests and protected forest, wetlands and wildlife, and the eviction of villagers.
In support of their demands, tribals organised protest rallies on March 10, against the state government in three districts -- Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal, in which five people were injured in those incidents.
The protests were organised against the state government's crackdown on poppy cultivation and encroachment of forest land.
The state government earlier this month demolished three churches in Manipur, claiming that the churches were "illegal constructions".
The hilly and forested Churachandpur district in southern Manipur, which borders Myanmar and Mizoram, is home to various Kuki-Chin militant groups.
The Centre and the Manipur government signed the tripartite agreement and Suspension of Operation with the three militant outfits on August 22, 2008.
(With inputs from IANS)