A statewide shutdown in Manipur against evictions at a village in Imphal East has been extended by two days till Wednesday, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday. The All Manipur Muslim Organisations Coordinating Committee began the protest on Sunday midnight.
Two people – a civilian and a village defence force personnel – were injured when residents of the village confronted the police during the eviction drive on Monday. Seventy-four houses at Awaching Kshetri Bengoon Mamang village, which falls under a reserve forest area, were destroyed using heavy machines on the first day, reported the Imphal Free Press. A mosque was spared.
The government claims the houses belong to encroachers. The eviction was done by forest department officials and the state police forces. The state government had notified residents of the village to vacate the place several times, according to The Telegraph.
In the protest by the All Manipur Muslim Organisations Coordinating Committee, demonstrators blocked roads and burnt tyres.
The organisation had held a two-day protest in April against the state government’s decision to acquire inhabited land in some areas, including the village. However, the government had then convinced the group that it would not take up any activity against the people’s interests.
“However, on Sunday, all of a sudden, the government ordered an eviction drive at Kshetri Bengoon Mamang Khul from Monday,” the committee’s General Secretary Wahidur Rehman told The Telegraph. “Since the order was unreasonable and against the agreement signed with the government, we announced an agitation with a 24-hour total shutdown.”
Instead of trying to find a peaceful solution, the government has deployed huge security forces and started demolishing houses without mercy, Rehman said, claiming that the police had fired shots and tear gas shells at those who resisted. “People were beaten like animals and many were injured,” he said. “We strongly condemn this ruthless act of the government.”
Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar warned on Monday that the forest department will conduct similar eviction drives in encroached reserve forest areas in all districts.