Normal life was hit across Manipur's Imphal valley districts on Wednesday, the second day of the 48-hour statewide shutdown called by Meira Paibis, a collective of Meitei women, and five local clubs, demanding unconditional release of five "village defence volunteers" arrested by police, officials said.
For the second day, educational institutions, markets, banks and commercial establishments remained closed, while attendance in government offices was negligible and a few vehicles plied on the roads, they said. Across all the five districts of Imphal Valley, women in large numbers blocked roads and raised slogans demanding the release of the youths.
Protesters blamed the state government and police for failing to tackle the law and order in the hill areas. S Sakhi, a protester at Wangkhei in Imphal East district said, "Police continue to arrest, detain and fire tear gas shells on unarmed civilians across the five districts of Imphal valley while doing hardly anything against the armed gunmen openly taking out processions in Kuki-dominated areas of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi districts."
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"The village volunteers' job is to protect Meitei villages in the periphery of the hill and valley areas from attacks by Kuki Zo militants," protester S Bebisana at Naoremthong in Imphal West district said. On Saturday, police arrested five youths for carrying sophisticated weapons and donning camouflage uniforms.
In a statement, police said the five had been produced before the judicial magistrate and remanded to police custody. On September 16, protesters tried to storm the Porompat police station, demanding the release of the five youths, prompting security forces to fire several rounds of teargas shells. A few protesters and an RAF personnel received minor injuries during the stand-off.
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