IMPHAL, Sept 6: Provoked by a news report of The Telegraph, Kolkata on Irom Sharmila’s affair with an NRI, Apunba Lup, a conglomerate citizens’ body burnt copies of The Telegraph and imposed an indefinite ban on the circulation of the paper in the state from today onwards.
The ban was announced by the coordinators of Apunba Lup in a press conference held at Manipur Press Club this afternoon.
Apunba Lup is an organisation formed to spearhead the agitation over the custodial killing after alleged rape of Thangjam Manorama, a woman from Bamon Kampu of Imphal East by troops of the Assam Rifle in July 2004.
The agitation forced Okram Ibobi Singh government to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from Imphal Municipal limit. Since the Manoramaa episode Apunba Lup has been fighting against Armed Force Special Powers Act and human rights abuse.
“We have decided to burn copies of The Telegraph and also impose a ban on circulation of the paper in Manipur indefinitely with immediate effect,” Elangbam Johnson, assistant coordinator of the Apunba Lup announced at the media conference.
The Apunba Lup was not concerned with the veracity of the report on Sharmila’s affair. The organisation views the report as a part of a “high level conspiracy” to dilute the cause of Sharmila’s struggle.
“The ban would continue until a responsible editor of The Telegraph comes to Imphal and tender an apology to the people of Manipur,” the assistant coordinator said.
Immediately after the announcement, representatives of various civil society bodies and constituent member organisations of the Apunba Lup gathered near the gate of the Manipur Press Club where shouting slogans, protestors burnt copies of yesterday’s edition of The Telegraph.
As the paper was lighted the protestors shouted “Telegraph boycott.”
At the press conference Langdon Ayekpam, coordinator of the Apunba Lup said the report smacked of an agenda pushed through Centre and Manipur government to insult not only Sharmila but also the entire people of Manipur.
Other coordinators of the organization, Phulindro Konsam and Sunil Karam said choosing the issue of a personal matter of Sharmila instead of her struggle and cause to give highlight in the front page of the paper in such a big manner was very unfortunate.
The coordinators also appealed to national media to be sensitive while reporting issues concerning Manipur.
In another development volunteers of the Keishamthong Kendra Humanitarian Development Committee also burnt copies of the paper at the Keishampat bazar of Imphal West this afternoon.
“No national media highlighted her 11 year long struggle. So the Telegraph report has an ulterior motive to destruct her struggle at a time when Anna Hazare is preparing to join Sharmila’s cause,” R. K. Sivachandra, chief patron of the committee said.