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Rebel shutdown to greet prime minister in Manipur

The RPF had called the shutdown to protest against controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2006 10:20 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrivesin Manipur on Saturday on a whirlwind visit amid a total shutdown enforced by two organisations, including an influential separatist group.

Shops, businesses and educational institutions remained closed, while private and public transport remained off the roads following a 12-hour general strike called by the outlawed Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) to protest Manmohan Singh's visit, said a police spokesperson.

A 24-hour general strike has been called by the Action Committee Against Tipaimukh Project to coincide with his visit. This is a group spearheading a movement against the construction of the Tipaimukh dam on Barak river.

The prime minister is to reach the Manipur capital at 1.30 pm to lay the foundation stone for the Manipur Institute of Technology, a sports academy, and a convention-cum-cultural centre.

"The prime minister will not go to the actual sites for the foundation laying ceremonies and instead take part in a symbolic function at the Kangla Fort ground," said a state government spokesperson.

Manmohan Singh was earlier scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the controversial Tipaimukh multipurpose dam too but it was shelved following protests by locals opposed to the construction.

The RPF had called the shutdown to protest the continuance of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) - a legislation that provides unlimited powers to the security forces to shoot or arrest anybody without a warrant.

Manipur in recent years witnessed mass protests over the act and activists have been demanding its withdrawal saying the legislation was "draconian" and allege human rights violations by security forces in the name of countering insurgency.

"Let us hope the prime minister makes some bold announcementon Saturdayabout repealing the act as people are being killed and raped with impunity by security forces taking advantage of the AFSPA," said T Singh, a civil rights campaigner.

Singh leaves for New Delhi later on Saturday.

First Published: Dec 02, 2006 10:20 IST