Protesters begin chappal campaign

Imphal, Sept. 30: Footwear, of all shapes and sizes, rained on the private residence of Manipur irrigation and flood control minister N. Biren Singh as protesters launched another phase of the “oust Ibobi Singh” campaign.
More than 50 protesters demonstrated in front of the closed gate of the minister’s house at Luwangsangbam on the outskirts of the city.
Anti-government slogans like “We condemn the Congress-led government” and “Resign chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh” rent the air as some protesters hurled sandals and shoes inside the compound of the minister’s house.
Biren Singh, who is also the spokesman for the Ibobi Singh-led Secular Progressive Front coalition, was not present in the house but rushed home on getting the news.
Security personnel guarding the house were caught unawares. As the protesters started shouting anti-Ibobi and anti-government slogans, the lone security guard posted atop the watchtower at the gate remained silent.
But when the footwear missiles started flying into the compound, two security guards ran up to the watchtower and warned the protesters that they would use weapons if they did not disperse.
The protesters retreated after the security guards threatened to use force, but no police reinforcements were sent to the spot during the demonstration that lasted nearly half-an-hour.
The protests against Ibobi Singh and his government started after police commandos allegedly shot dead former militant Ch. Sanjit and a pregnant woman, Rabina Devi, in an alleged fake encounter in a shootout here on July 23.
Usha Luxmi, a spokesperson for the Sanjit action committee, said, “Our chappal campaign began today. We decided to throw chappals and shoes because the Ibobi Singh-led government has remained indifferent to our demand for punishment to the guilty police commandos and also because the ministers continue to support Ibobi Singh.”
She said by throwing footwear, the protesters wanted to humiliate the ministers. “We will hold similar demonstrations at the residences of all the ministers,” she added.
Reacting strongly to the attack, Biren Singh said, “We have taken the matter very seriously. The government is contemplating action against those involved in the demonstration.” Sources said the police was likely to start a search to pick up those who hurled footwear.
Today’s campaign comes as the Ibobi Singh government is groping in the dark to restore the academic atmosphere which has been paralysed by the class boycott call given by the All Manipur Students Union, the Manipuri Students Federation and the Kangleipak Students Association.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today for the first time appealed to Apunba Lup to come to the negotiating table instead of boycotting classes.
“The incident was very unfortunate. The government will not spare anyone found guilty. We appeal to the agitators to come and peacefully sort out the matter instead of closing educational institutions,” Ibobi Singh said at the closing function of a school games here.