The Coordinating Committee of Manipur Integrity (COCOMI)’s attempt to march up to Torbung along with Meira Paibis and volunteers on Wednesday met with stiff resistance from the state and Central forces and had to turn back at Kangvai 9’9 point.
Earlier, COCOMI had announced its intent to remove security barricades along the Tiddim highway to reclaim Meitei territories at Torbung Bangla while the state government had appealed to them to ‘cease and desist’ from the move with the assurance that around 700 Meiteis had already been at Torbung.
At least 90 individuals were injured and taken to hospital on Wednesday after security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters marching towards barricades placed by the security forces between Moirang and Churachandpur districts with an intention to remove it.
Earlier during the day, hundreds of protesters gathered at Phougakchao Ikhai in Bishnupur district to reach the deserted houses in Torbung under Bishnupur district which is a few kilometres away from Churachandpur district.
The protesters came out defying curfew imposed in the Meitei-majority valley region of Manipur, following a call by COCOMI to push back the security barricades.
Also Read: Government asks COCOMI to cease and desist
Meanwhile, COCOMI said that they will march till the Chin-Kuki-majority Churachandpur district, despite the government’s appeal not to do so as it may worsen the Manipur crisis.
“We want the barricades to be removed because beyond the barricades there are lands of the Meiteis. We want to resettle there and get our land back,” COCOMI coordinator Jeetendra Ningomba said.
Following the call, people began to gather in the area early Wednesday morning. A large number of security forces, comprising both state and central forces, were deployed in the area.
Besides this, a full curfew was also imposed in five districts, viz. Imphal East, Imphal West, Kakching, Bishnupur and Churachandpur, as a preventive measure. However, braving the curfew, many protestors from various places thronged at Phougakchao Ikhai.
Security was also tightened in Churachandpur district, 35 km from the Meitei-majority Bishnupur district. The barricades have been placed between these two districts in an area that the security forces call a temporary “buffer zone”.
Locals said they are unable to go home in Torbung due to the barricades at Phougakchao Ikhai. They said they fled from Torbung when ethnic violence broke out on May 3.
Meanwhile, six representatives of COCOMI reached 9’9 Kangvai and started removing barricades but the restless protestors at Phougakchao Ikhai erupted and began to move towards the barricade at Kangvai area.
Tension was palpable in the area, with security forces comprising personnel of RAF, the Assam Rifles and Manipur Police firing tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.
The personnel also fired rounds of rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
The protesters demanded that they should be allowed to visit Torbung, the place from where Meitei people were displaced following the ethnic clashes since May. This led to a verbal confrontation between forces and protestors for quite a long time.
To keep the situation under control, security forces later fired tear gas, mock bombs to disperse them.
Police said, about 700 people moved to Torbung area taking the risk of possible attacks a few days back and did not come back.
A villager of Phougakchao Ikhai said, some went and stayed at Torbung Bangla but it is not really known whether they have finally settled down.
One camera person of ANI was among those who sustained injuries during the scuffle at Phougakchao Ikhai.
The injured camera person is Lairenlakpam Kanta from Huikap Makha Leikai, Thoubal district.
He sustained injury on his left hand from a stun grenade that was hurled towards the mob allegedly by Central forces.
He needed at least four stitches to treat the injury.
Most of the injured were admitted to Moirang PHC, Bishnupur district hospital, Raj Medicity and other nearby hospitals.