Ukhrul holds mass prayer amid strict restrictions

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UKHRUL, July 30: A heated confrontation between the State security forces and the residents of Ukhrul town occurred in front of the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) office amid mounting tensions as the public sought to hold a peaceful mass prayer program at TNL Ground at noon on Wednesday.

Tensions mounted here today when hundreds of residents of different localities in Ukhrul town who turned out at around 12: 10 pm to hold a peaceful mass prayer meeting under the theme ‘Prayer Just for Peace’ were prevented from entering the TNL Ground by the State security forces under the prohibitory order restricting assembly of five or more people, being clamped in and around the town.

A huge contingent of State security forces strategically blocked the route in front of TNL office leading to TNL Ground with female cops in riot gears chaining themselves across the road and restricted public access to the meeting venue. A heated confrontation between the two sides then ensued for a few moments with both sides pushing and shoving each other and in the process a handful of protestors forced their way through to the venue.

Meanwhile, sources said that on learning of the proposed mass prayer, the security forces has sealed the two main entrance of TNL Ground at northern and western sides and kept guarding since 11 am today morning.

The State security forces including police commandos, Indian Reserved Battalion (IRB) and Manipur Rifles (MR) were led by Ukhrul SP S Selvan.

Thereafter, around 12:30 pm a small congregation numbering about one hundred people gathered inside the TNL Ground and held a peaceful mass prayer while the rest of the town residents were dispersed by the security forces.

The mass prayer meeting was organized by the Tangkhul Frontal Organizations in tandem with the Tangkhul Churches Forum (TCF), Inter Churches Forum (ICF) and other Prayer teams of the district.

The congregation sought in unison divine intervention in the prevailing situation in the district. Prayer for an honorable solution to the ongoing Indo-Naga peace process, for the leaders of the Government of India and for the collective leadership of NSCN-IM, while seeking God’s grace in restoration of peace and normalcy in the town marked the highlights of the one and half hour long meeting which concluded with a mass prayer followed by the Tangkhul national enthem “Ili pharasang kahai ngalei” (My birth place).

Speaking at the gathering TNL president Artax A Shimray decried the action of the State security forces in attempting to thwart the prayer meeting while terming the present tense as creation of the Manipur government with a view to vitiate the ongoing Indo-Naga peace process.

Expressing anguish over the indifferent attitude of the State government, he lamented that a total of 17 days has elapsed since the public put up their charter of demands but nothing has been done as yet. He also called upon the public not to get disheartened by such coercive forces but to stay focused on the common objective.

Meanwhile, extending gratitude for public cooperation, Somipem Mungleng, convenor TCF, asserted that there can never be peace without justice.

Referring to the present scenario, he said that we should not give up our hope but continue to cling onto it. “War is being fought and is not lost.” He added.

Later, around 2:30 pm the situation returned to semblance of normality gradually as all contingent of security forces melted away from the scene following the conclusion of the mass prayer meet.

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