Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday exhorted the people of Manipur to strive for peace as violence could not bring about a lasting solution to any problem. “All of us should engage in dialogue, instead of confrontation, to move forward.”

She was addressing a public meeting at Kangla here after inaugurating three market complexes for women, a tribal women's market and a Muslim girls' hostel, and laying the foundation stone for the regional branch of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University.

The UPA chairperson said she could understand the tribulations of the people of Manipur. “However, all of us should work for peace, development and welfare of the people.”

When the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front coalition Ministry was installed in Manipur in March 2002, the State's coffers were empty and there was no money even to pay salaries to employees, Ms. Gandhi said. However, the Centre extended financial and moral support to the government. Now the State's finances were sound, and several developmental projects were being implemented.

Ms. Gandhi announced that Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja, who was present, had sanctioned Rs. 72 crore for the construction of three more market complexes in Imphal.

Earlier, soon after her arrival at the Tulihal airport here, Ms. Gandhi flew in a helicopter to Churachandpur district to dedicate to the nation the Khuga multipurpose project.

On her return to Imphal, she paid floral tributes to the statues of heroes of Manipur.

General strike

The attendance at her function was thin as 17 civil organisations had called a 15-hour general strike protesting against the Centre's failure to establish the whereabouts of chairman of the outlawed United National Liberation Front, R.K. Sanayaima, who was reported to have been arrested in Bangladesh more than one month ago. There was no untoward incident during the general strike. Ms. Gandhi left for New Delhi in the afternoon.