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Kalam in Manipur amid total shutdown

The strike has been called to protest the present law that gives the Army unlimited powers to deal with militancy.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2006 12:00 IST

President APJ Abdul Kalam arrived in Manipur on Monday amid a total general strike called to protest the continuance of a law that gives the Army unlimited powers to deal with militancy.

The president landed in the state capital Imphal from Guwahati and went straight to the Manipur University to attend the 10th convocation function.

"All the roads were deserted with shops and businesses remaining closed and no vehicles were plying on the streets except vehicles of security forces," a police official said.

The Apunba Lup, the apex body of 32 social organisations, the All Manipur Students' Union, the Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur and the Kangleipak Students' Association have called for a boycott of the president's programmes in the state.

"The spontaneous response to our call for boycotting the president's visit is an indication that the people in general are against the continuing human rights violations by the Army in the name of countering insurgency under the pretext of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Manipur," an Apunba Lup leader said.

The controversial AFSPA provides unlimited powers to the security forces to shoot or arrest anybody without a warrant.

Kalam will also visit the small Bunglon village in Manipur's Churachandpur district where he will interact with students and teachers at the invitation of Gin Gangte, the 30-year-old headmaster of the local high school.

It was a dream come true for Gangte when in April this year he was granted an audience with the president after he sought a formal appointment to meet him. "I told the president during our meeting that many students in my school were unable to even buy books and that nearly 90 per cent of them have never seen a computer," Gangte said.

The president, he said, heard him with rapt attention. "I then handed him a letter on behalf of Bunglon village inviting him to visit our school," the headmaster said.

And about a fortnight back when some state government officials visited Gangte at the isolated village of just about 50 to 60 odd tribal families and told them the president would visit them, their joy knew no bounds.

"It was like a dream when we were told the president would come here," an overjoyed Gangte said.

Kalam is also visiting a private farm in Mao in Manipur's Senapati district before leaving in the afternoon for Aizawl, capital of Mizoram.

In Aizawl, the president is expected to attend the convocation ceremony of Mizoram University.

On Tuesday, Kalam goes to Silchar in Assam for another convocation function at the Assam University. He is then scheduled to visit a self-help group in Dimoria, close to Guwahati, and spend some time at Sualkuchi, the silk town of Assam that is also known as the Manchester of the East.

Later on Tuesday he is expected to address a workshop on bio-diesel development in Guwahati before flying back to New Delhi.