IMPHAL: Thousands of Meitei demonstrators took to the streets demanding the removal of barricades set up by the Indian Army along Tiddim Road (Imphal-Churachandpur road) at Phougakchao Ikhai in Bishnupur district on Wednesday.
The demonstration comes amidst an indefinite total curfew imposed by the government in five valley districts of the state, including Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur, Thoubal, and Kakching Districts.
The protests turned chaotic, with confrontations between security forces and demonstrators resulting in injuries. According to the local press, at least twenty people, predominantly women, were reported injured when security forces fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds.
The clashes between police and protestors intensified at Kwakta, leading to law enforcement using tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the agitators. Despite the police action, the protestors persisted in their march towards the barricade, demonstrating their protest.
A second intense scuffle unfolded when the demonstrators reached Phougakchao Ikhai later in the afternoon. To disperse the protestors, both state and Central security forces resorted to firing multiple rounds of tear gas shells, rubber bullets, and smoke bombs, resulting in several more injuries among the demonstrators.
Earlier, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) spearheaded this mass movement, initially calling for it on Monday evening, and further highlighted the call through the women’s wing of COCOMI on Tuesday.
Somorendro Thokchom, the Media Coordinator of COCOMI, had previously warned that the group set a deadline for the relevant authorities to remove the barricades by the end of August, but no action had been taken. Consequently, they mobilised the mass movement on September 6 at 11 am. COCOMI had also cautioned both the state and Central governments about the potential for adverse incidents during the protests.
The situation remains tense, with further developments expected as the protests continue to unfold.