Hundreds of Vehicles Blocked, Internet Suspended

IMPHAL: Hundreds of vehicles were blocked along National Highway 2 (Imphal-Dimapur) on Sunday amid the tense situation as the blockade, called by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM), hit normal activities in the mountainous districts of Manipur, officials said. .

Police said few arson attacks, including a vehicle burning in hillside neighborhoods, were reported on Saturday and Sunday.

ATSUM called the ‘economic blockade’ on Friday, demanding that the Manipur Autonomous District Council (Hill Areas) (Amendment) Bill, 2021 be proposed to the State Assembly to give more powers administrative and autonomy to tribal self-governing bodies.

Following the tension, the Manipur government suspended mobile data (internet) services for five days across the state.

Special Secretary of Home Affairs, H. Gyan Prakash, in a notification on Saturday evening, said that in view of the situation which would cause serious disturbances to the whole peaceful coexistence of communities and the maintenance of public order , ….. suspension/limitation of mobile data services within the territorial jurisdiction of the entire state of Manipur has been ordered.

“…all mobile service providers are hereby requested to ensure compliance with this order,” the notification reads.

The notification quoting Manipur Chief Police Officer said that in Bishnupur district, an incident occurred along NH-2 on Saturday in which a pickup truck was found on fire after being set on fire by youths .

The District Magistrates of Bishnupur and Churachandpur also imposed restraining orders under Section 144 of the CrPC for a period of two months in those districts.

Police said several hundred trucks loaded with goods carrying essentials were stuck on National Highway 2, which connects Manipur to the rest of the country via Nagaland.

Meanwhile, around 30 tribal students were injured in Imphal on Saturday when police prevented a protest rally leading to a clash between the two sides. Five tribal student leaders were arrested and sent to jail for 15 days.

Demanding the release of its arrested leaders, the influential ATSUM student body has threatened to escalate its unrest.

The BJP government, led by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, on Tuesday introduced the 6th and 7th Manipur District Council (Hill Areas) Amendment Bills to the Assembly. However, the ATSUM claimed that these bills do not comply with their demands.

The ATSUM has been agitating for some time in the hill districts, including Kangpokpi and Senapati, to demand more power from the Tribal Autonomous District Councils.

In August last year, the Hill Area Committee (HAC), made up of MPs from Manipur’s 20 tribal reserved seats, recommended the new Autonomous District Council (ADC) Bill to ensure ‘equitable development’ in the hill districts under the same parameters as in the valley region of the state.

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