Imphal: At least 25 people, including a journalist, were reportedly injured on Wednesday during tear gas and mock bomb incidents fired by security forces in Bishnupur district.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), one of the leading valley-based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), called for a mass rally and planned to march towards the Bishnupur and Churachandpur border to remove the barricades set up by the Army along the National Highway.
Despite a curfew in place in Imphal valley, a large number of people from diverse backgrounds on Wednesday attended the mass rally organised by COCOMI. The protest march began at Kwakta ground but was stopped by security forces at Phougakchao Ikhai. At the same time, a sit-in protest was happening at Phougakchao Ikhai. COCOMI’s rally aimed to remove Army barricades along the National Highway, particularly from Phougakchao Ikhai to the Torbung Bangla community hall, where Meitei houses are located.
Heavy security forces deployed along the highway fired tear gas and mock bombs to disperse the crowd gathered at Phougakchao Ikhai in Bishnupur district.
According to COCOMI, the committee had already urged the government and the authorities concerned to remove the Army barricades by August 30; however, the request has not been fulfilled.
The Committee alleged that Meitei families are facing difficulties entering their houses through the approach roads connected to the highway because of Army barricades and two large bulletproof vehicles (Casper) blocking the road ahead.
The barricade at Phougakchao Ikhai in Bishnupur lies on the main highway connecting Imphal and Churachandpur. COCOMI wants it removed and relocated to Torbung instead. This is the same area where the tribal group Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) had earlier planned the mass burial of 35 bodies of the Kuki-Zo community killed in the ongoing ethnic violence.
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COCOMI claims that Meitei families are facing difficulties accessing their homes due to these barricades and large bulletproof vehicles obstructing the road. They are advocating for the relocation of these barriers to Torbung instead.
The state government had appealed to COCOMI to withdraw their planned mass protest scheduled for September 6, as they had already removed some barricades and sought COCOMI’s cooperation. Approximately 700 displaced individuals from the Torbung area have started returning to their original homes over the past few days.
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