Sunday, August 3, 2008

People in the state still edgy over child kidnappings

IMPHAL, Aug 2: Womenfolk and students have still not overcome the shock of child abductions in the state even after the proscribed PREPAK outfit clarified that they would stop recruitment of children as child soldiers and the Manipur government stepped up security measures to check kidnapping of children.

"We want to know who are the real culprits in the current trend of kidnapping attempts that are being reported every day," said a woman participating in a sit-in protest staged at Khurai Lamlong bazar in Imphal east today.

"We have been kept in a confusing situation and fear still exists in our minds as the reports of attempts to kidnap and escape of children from abductors are still coming frequently," she said.

The woman while recounting the incident of July 31 in which two boys from a school at Khurai Heikrumakhong were reportedly taken away by some miscreants before being released later after police and locals conducted a massive manhunt for them in Heingang hills, said the two schoolboys were still leading a life of anxiety.

Womenfolk and students in their hundreds participated in the sit-in protest at the Lamlong market place which was crowded with the protestors. The protest commenced from around 10 am and went on till 4 pm.

All shops and business establishments remained closed for the day in a show of solidarity to the protest. They were also protesting against firings and attacks on the residence of state FCS minister, Y Erabot located in Khurai.

"No to child kidnapping," "Stop attempts to kidnap children," "Don`t cause panic for the people by firing guns and exploding bombs," "We condemn both kidnapping of children for recruitment as child soldiers and attacks at the populated areas," were some of the slogans displayed at the protest site.

Another woman who wanted to know the reality behind the reported attempts of kidnappings which have been reported every day in the local media in the last around one month, said the state authorities should try to find out the real culprits and allay the doubts in the minds of the people.

"If the underground also think of the people, they should find out the real culprits behind the incidents instead of only clarifying through the newspapers," she demanded.

A massive rally of around 1000 students and local people of Lilong area in Thoubal district also took to the streets along the Indo-Myanmar section of the NH-39 from Lilong bazar to Usoipokpi today organised by the All Lilong United Clubs Organisation and Schools, ALUCOS.

During the rally placards with slogans like, "Kidnapping is Unlawful," "Let education be a free zone," "Save the lives of the students," "Stop child kidnappings" were carried by the rallyists.

The kidnappings and kidnapping attempts have caused tension for the teachers and students greatly affecting the learning and teaching atmosphere, said a teacher participating in the rally.

After the rally a public meeting was held which resolved to urge all concerned to stop forced recruitment of children as child soldiers among others.

The meeting also resolved to help in creating a good atmosphere at the schools and to constitute a common body of the social organisations and clubs of the area to counter any kidnapping attempts at Lilong area.

The proscribed outfit, PREPAK had announced that it had stopped recruiting children and further reports of kidnapping attempts of children were not to be related with the group, in a statement recently issued to the local media in Imphal.

Government forces have also intensified frisking and checking operations on vehicles carrying children apart from opening special cells in four valley districts where kidnappings and attempts to kidnap children can be reported. Police are also taking swift action on receiving any reports of missing school children.

After the massive search operation in Heingang hills some 15 kms on the south of Imphal east two schoolboys of age ranging from 13 to 16 were rescued after they reportedly escaped from some well armed people who kept them confined at a hideout in the uphill.

More than 24 cases of missing children have so far been registered at different police stations in the state during the month of July. The number does not include attempts to kidnap and rescues by the locals and police which were reported after July 16. (Courtesy:IFP)

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