Imphal, Dec 18 At least 22 cars, buses and other vehicles were torched in Manipur's Imphal East district on Sunday by residents protesting against the Naga economic blockade and violence spread to more areas, leading to authorities imposing curfew throughout the district as well as in neighbouring Imphal West.
Authorities have also suspended internet connectivity in the areas. In the attack on vehicles in Imphal East, the arsonists did not target the vehicle drivers and passengers. But as fire tenders could not reach the spot, the vehicles could not be salvaged.
In wake of the attack, heavily-armed police and paramilitary personnel were patrolling the trouble-prone areas after dispersing the unruly mob by firing tear gas canisters.
As the violence spread, curfew imposed in a part of Imphal East following a militant attack was extended.
Expressing the people's resentment against the blockade, activist A. Rajen said: "Since the central government is pampering the United Naga Council (UNC) and the militant outfit underpinning it, the situation is getting worse day by day. The centre is a silent spectator to the indefinite economic blockade imposed against Manipur since November 1."
Women who called the 24-hour general strike had threatened with more agitations after they ended it on Saturday night.
In Sagolband area of Imphal West district, women stopped and set alight several items including consumer goods which were being transported to the tribal areas.
Nirmala, a housewife, said: "No consumer item is available in the market. Baby foods, life saving medicines, chicken, fish, eggs had vanished. We are resorting to counter blockade against some tribal areas since they should also suffer like us."
Another woman activist called the UNC a frontal organisation of a militant outfit and said it should be outlawed.
Earlier, curfew had been imposed in a stretch of Imphal East earlier on Sunday after tribal militants opened fire in Bongyang village along the Imphal-Ukhrul road. Since most of the villagers were inside the church for Sunday prayers, there was no casualty.
In response, Collector Ningthoujam Geofrey clamped curfew in the area from Lamlong market to Yaingangpokpi, with the restrictions extending to 300 metres on either side of the state highway.
Meanwhile, villagers and staff of Vijaya Bank took out a procession on Sunday at Saikul, also a Kuki area, condemning the robbery of Rs 6 lakh on December 15 by two masked men.
Autonomous District Council member T. Guite said: "The money belongs to the poor people and not the rich and influential businessmen. The common people are hit hard by the closure of the bank branch."
While condemning the heist, elected representatives and village elders urged the bank to reopen the branch there.
Police circles and civil organisations fear a communal flare up as the central government has not stepped in to restrain the Naga groups. Police sources fear that this may be the beginning of a repeat of ethnic cleansing witnessed in the 1990s which left over 1,500 dead and dozens of villages destroyed.