Clashes continue in Imphal over building of temporary market

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Imphal, Jan 19 (IANS) Violent clashes continued here for the second day on Tuesday between the supporters and opponents of a government project to construct a temporary market in the Thangal area for the women vendors whose shops were destroyed in the January 4 earthquake.

Several persons were injured in sporadic clashes between policemen and supporters of the 12-hour general strike called on Tuesday by Thangmeiband Kendra Development Organisation (TAKDO) in Imphal town and Thangmeiband constituency.

Three of them sustained serious injuries and were taken to hospitals. One of them was a policewoman and two were young supporters of the strike, the police said.

Tuesday was the second consecutive day of the dawn-to-dusk strike called by TAKDO to protest against the storming of local BJP legislator Khumukcham Joykishan’s house by some women vendors on Saturday.

Over 30 people, mostly women, had been injured on Monday in clashes during the strike.

Supporters of the strike say women vendors, who are set to benefit from the construction of the temporary market, turned violent on Saturday and insulted not just Joykishan but all the people from Thangmeiband constituency.

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Joykishan has been leading the protests against the construction, saying the project was started without any consultation with the local people and would cause traffic jams and inconvenience to the people.

No tender was floated for the construction and no work order was issued, the legislator said.

Heishnam Jamuna, the secretary of TAKDO, said some of the opponents of the construction project met Chief Minister Okram Ibobi to tell him that a more suitable alternative site should be found for building the temporary market.

“However, the chief minister was belligerent. Throughout the brief meeting, he maintained that the government had decided to construct the market at the roadside and the construction shall be completed on schedule. So we decided to go ahead with the general strike,” she said.

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Shops, banks, schools and other establishments were closed and there was no traffic in the Thangal market area here.

Police used tear gas at several places in the town to deter the youths who were trying to enter Thangal market area where the controversial construction has been going on.

Stone pelting youths were seen chasing the policemen in riot gear. Some policemen were also seen retaliating by throwing the stones back at the youths.

All roads and bridges leading to the troubled market complexes were blocked by the police from early morning to prevent the strike supporters from entering and creating law and order problems.

Several women vendors were also seen selling various items at different places from early morning.

Ibemhal, a vendor, told IANS that for her it was a question of feeding her family members with her day’s earnings.

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As the strike supporters were gaining the upper hand additional forces were rushed to maintain law and order. Some of the shops including those of chemists were open partially. Heavily armed police and paramilitary personnel are patrolling the town.

Works Minister K. Ratankumar said: “This is not the only temporary market. Another one will also be constructed at the eastern side of the polo ground.”

Meanwhile, women vendors in other areas of Imphal, notably Lamlong and Kongba markets that were also damaged in the January 4 earthquake, have urged the government to construct new shops for them.

Eight people were killed and over 100 injured in the quake that also destroyed hundreds of houses.

Nearly 2,000 displaced women vendors are now selling their wares by the roadside, much to the resentment of street vendors.

The women’s market in Imphal is one of the largest such markets in the country.

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