Total bandh in Manipur

IMPHAL, JUNE 16. All towns in the State wore a deserted look today and normal life came to a standstill in response to the 72- hour general strike called by students' unions and women's organisations to protest the extension of the ceasefire with the NSCN(IM) to Manipur.

Effigies of the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, and the Government representative, Mr. K. Padmanabhaiah, were burnt in Imphal by activists of the All-Manipur Students' Union (AMSU). A meeting was held at the office of the All-Manipur United Clubs Organisation, which was attended by representatives of 83 organisations and elders of all tribes and communities. The participants decided to launch protests and court arrest and called upon all MLAs to tender their resignations.

All shops pulled down their shutters and educational institutions and Government and private officers remained closed. Imphal-bound trucks and buses were stranded on the State border.

The Governor, Mr. Ved Prakash Marwah, reviewed the law and order situation with top police officials. Army and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the areas inhabited by tribals.

A group of MLAs, led by the Speaker, Mr. Sapam Dhananjoy, today called on Mr. Marwah. They told Mr. Marwah that though the people welcomed the peace initiatives with the Nagaland-based NSCN(IM), they were against the extension of the ceasefire to Manipur since it was a separate State and also because the Government was never consulted. While assuring the MLAs that their views would be conveyed to the Centre, Mr. Marwah pointed out that the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, had given him an assurance that the extension of the ceasefire would not affect the territorial integrity of Manipur.

A section of the MLAs pointed out that right from Mr. I.K. Gujral onwards, all Prime Ministers had been assuring the Government and the people that the ceasefire would not be extended to Manipur. The resolutions of the Assembly objecting to any move to extend the ceasefire had been ignored, they said.

PTI adds:

The Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) opposed the move and blamed the NDA Government for creating problems in the region. The MPCC chief, Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh, said the party would take up the issue with the high command to exert pressure on the Centre to retract its decision. The CPI State council secretary, Mr. Parijat Singh, said that by extending the ceasefire to Manipur and other northeastern States, the Centre had recognised and legitimised the NSCN(I-M) demand for a ``greater Nagaland''.

Volunteers of the Manipur Students Federation (MSF) locked the offices of the BJP, the Samata Party, the Congress and the Manipur People's Party on Friday. MSF sources said they would prevent activities of all political parties if they failed to put pressure on the Centre to retract its move.