CORRESPONDENT/STAFF REPORTER KAKCHING/IMPHAL, 25th Feb: As two separate bodies continue to mount pressure over the demand for setting up Kakching district headquarters, things turned ugly on Sunday when locals of Waikhong-Thongjao resorted to blocking road, thus resulting in police crackdown that left at least 22 locals injured.
Following a resolution adopted during a public meeting held on February 21, locals the aegis of Kakching District Headquarters Demand Committee Waikhong-Thongjao blocked the road at Wabagai Lamkhai Keithel on Sunday.
Upon invitation from the authority, the demand committee relaxed the blockade and some representatives attended a meeting with DC Kakching Neilenthang Telienga and SP Kakching Victoria Yengkhom. As per resolution of the meeting, the demand committee agreed to submit a memorandum containing their demands.
As the demand committee members were busy preparing the memorandum, the locals resumed their blockade. Police resorted to firing tear gas canister and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd after repeated instructions to stand down their protest were in vain. At least 22 people were reported to be injured in the police crackdown and the conditions of nine of them are said to be serious. The injured were first rushed to Hiyanglam PHC and those in critical conditions were later referred to JNIMS, Imphal.
DC and SP of Kakching district came to the spot and took stock of the situation.
Two protesters, Hijam Tamubi wife of H Ishingchaoba and Abujam Ibemcha wife of A Maniton both of Waikhong Ningthoumanai were arrested by police while another protester, Samjetsabam Ranjana daughter of Iboton of Thongjao Awang Leikai is said to be missing till the time of filing this report.
The nine critically injured protesters have been identified as Hijam Ruhini, wife of late Amu of Thongjao Mayai Leikai; Takhellambam Bala, wife of Ratan of Pangaltabi Chingkha; Kongbrailatpam Leiren, wife of Gourabijoy of Waikhong Ningthoumanai; Leishangthem Pramo, wife of Basan of Waikhong; Moirangthem Kamala, wife of Ibomcha of Waikhong; Laishram Pramo, wife of Gune of Thongjao; Thokchom Babita, wife of Momo of Elangkhangpokpi; and Ningthoujam Bala wife of Jadumani of Thongjao Mayai Leikai.
The other injured protesters are Yendrembam Romila, wife of Tomba of Elangkhangpokpi; RK Leima, wife of Tombisana of Wangoo; Yumnam Purnima, wife of Ibotombi of Yangdong; Samjetsabam Purnima, wife of late Mangi of Thongjao Awang; Moirangthem Nayini, wife of Ranjit of Waikhong; Laishram Subadani, wife of Tomba of Waikhong; S Memtombi, wife of S Ibomcha of Waikhong Keithel; Naorem Shanti, wife of late Shyamjai of Thongjao; Soibam Sandhyarani, wife of Opendro of Waikhong Keithel; Laishram Ibosana, son of late Joymani of Waikhong Awang; and Chirom Khambaton, son of Binoy of Waikhong Tangsham Leikai.
Details of three other injured protesters could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report.
In view of the volatile situation over the demand for installation of Kakching district headquarters, Kakching district magistrate has imposed restrictions under CrPC 144 in and around Wabagai Lamkhai Bazar and Kakching sub-division of the district with effect from Sunday 12.30 pm.
According to an order of the DM Neilenthang Telien, assembly of five or more persons, and carrying sticks, stones, licensed arms, weapons and other explosive devices have been prohibited until further order.
On the other-hand, the protesters gathered at Lamjao Awang Leikai community hall, where a public meeting was held. After the meeting, demand committee convener Mayanglambam Sureshkumar told media persons that their demand is a legitimate and logical one. However, it is unfortunate for some sections of the society to bring in political influence over the matter. The protest was not directed against Kakching but for the greater good of the district and its people, he maintained.
He also decried police action during Sunday’s protest while charging the police of retorting to violent crackdown against the non-violent protesters, whom he claimed to be staging peaceful protest but not blocking the road.
Hiyanglam MLA Dr Radheshyam and Sugnu MLA K Ranjit also came to the meeting venue and expressed their opinion on the issue that Waikhong-Thongjao is the most suitable site for setting up the district headquarters of Kakching. Apart from its strategic and central location, setting up the headquarters there would facilitate development in the least developed areas of the district, they maintained, while urging the government to act wisely in this regard. They also assured their support to the movement and demand of the demand committee.
Recalling how people of Kakching, Wabagai, Hiyanglam and Sugnu jointly demanded for a central location as the headquarters of Thoubal district after its bifurcation from Central District Imphal, MLA Ranjit termed the demand of Kakching locals as unfortunate.
The meeting also resolved to launch a series of intense agitation until their demands are fulfilled. However, it also resolved to defer the protest for some days in view of the ongoing class X and XII examinations.
Earlier in the day, Sekmaijin Bazar Development Committee and local clubs, NGOs and Meira Paibis from Irong Chesaba to Arong Nongmaikhong via Terapishak jointly organised a sit-in protest at Sekmaijin Bazar, Imphal West, demanding that Kakching be made the district headquarters and set up all the requisite infrastructure at Kakching by March 31.
Talking to media persons on the sidelines of the protest, Committee adviser A Rahman explained that although Kakching became a full-fledged district in December, 2016, no office/infrastructure signifying it as the district headquarters have been set up till date. The then government had acted upon the prolonged wishes of the people and made Kakching a full-fledged revenue District, he added.
Expressing surprise over the claims for making Waikhong Thongjao as the district headquarters, Rahman pointed out that no district headquarters have ever been made based on geographical figures in the history of Manipur. The district consists of four constituencies namely Wabagai, Hiyanglam, Kakching and Sugnu. Five out of every seven people in these constituencies want Kakching to be the location of DHQ, he added.
He further contended that Kakching is the best choice for setting up the DHQ from the viewpoint of public movement and communication as well.
Demanding the government do the needful for installing requisite infrastructure for a DHQ at Kakching by March 31, Rahman also warned of launching intense agitations if the government fails to do so.