Parties seek end to strike

Imphal, Dec. 25: An all-party meeting today called for sanity and end to strikes as Manipur celebrated Christmas with subdued festivity in view of the impending bandhs. An uneasy calm prevailed in the state after three days of street clashes between police and rioters, punctuated by curfews to control violence.

The all-party meeting, convened by chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh at his cabinet conference hall here to discuss the situation arising out of the alleged molestation of Manipuri film actress Momoco by NSCN (I-M) cadre R.P. Livingstone in Chandel on December 18, condemned the incident.

It decided to send a joint political delegation to New Delhi to apprise UPA leaders of the situation arising out of the incident and to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to hand over Livingstone to the state government.

The meeting appealed to UNC and the artistes' organisations to drop their strike plan, considering the hardships faced by the people.

"We are taking all steps and seeking help from the Centre to arrest Livingstone. We are hoping for positive results soon," deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, told reporters before attending a church service here. He, too, appealed to the UNC and the artistes' organisations to review their decision of imposing strikes.

The meeting was attended by leaders of the Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, CPI (ML), Trinamul Congress, Manipur State Congress Party, Janata Dal (S), Janata Dal (U), Manipur Peoples Party, Naga Peoples Front, Bahujan Samaj Party, Siva Sena, Lok Jana Shakti and the NCP.

The chief minister, ministers and legislators also attended a condolence programme organised at Manipur Press Club for Th. Dwijamani alias Nanao, the freelance video journalist who was killed in police firing during the strike. His body was brought at the press club here for floral tribute.

The United Naga Council of Manipur had yesterday called a 72-hour bandh from midnight tomorrow in all the Naga-inhabited areas in the hills to protest the alleged attack on Nagas during the strike called by the Film Forum Manipur and Manipur State Shumang Leela Council.

The forum and the council had called the statewide indefinite general strike on December 21 over the alleged molestation. It had announced the relaxation of the strike from midnight last night till tomorrow midnight in view of Christmas.

The UNC bandh will stop supplies to the valley while the artistes' strike will snap road communication between the hills and the valley.

There was no violence in any part of the state today. Protesters held a peaceful sit-in at Kwakeithel on the outskirts of Imphal city to demand Livingstone's arrest. People who were forced to stay indoors because of the strike came out in large numbers today to buy essentials.

The police today arrested three persons for allegedly molesting a group of Naga girls after isolating their male companions at Napet Palli in Imphal East district last evening during the general strike. The girls were rescued by local meira paibis (women activists).

The police have recovered five cell phones snatched from the girls by the goons. They are trying to recover two more mobile phones and two ipods. The three arrested have been identified as Tensubam Amitkumar, 21, Ngangom Chandra, 21, and Khaidem Sanahal, 20. They are all from Napet Pali.

"We have registered a case and are trying to recover the stolen items," a senior police officer told this correspondent.

The incident took place when the group of boys and girls was heading for their village, Leishiphung, in Senapati district on foot.

Solomon Ningshen, president of Tangkhul Naga Long, said the incident shows that Nagas are not safe in Manipur and reiterated the demand for alternative administrative arrangement for Nagas in the state outside the purview of Manipur government.