|N. Biren Singh|
Khelen Thokchom, TT, Imphal, March 25: The BJP-led coalition in Manipur, which promised to make the state free of bandhs and blockades, will have its first bandh, beginning tonight.
The Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur (Desam) has imposed a 17-hour bandh throughout the state from midnight tonight protesting against chief minister Nongthombam Biren Singh's decision to appoint Ashab Uddin, an Independent MLA, as a parliamentary secretary.
The students' body has been boycotting the Independent MLA, saying that his appointment to the Assembly is a threat to the rights of the indigenous people of the state. It contended that Ashab Uddin is a Bengali Muslim and not Meitei Muslim (Pangal).
Ashab Uddin defeated Congress heavyweight Thoudam Devendra Singh in Jiribam constituency in the recently concluded Assembly election.
Despite a joint appeal by All Manipur Bengali Students Association, All Jiribam Linguistic Minority Peoples Organisation and All Manipur Muslim Organisations Co-ordinating Committee to withdraw the boycott, Desam has refused to change its stand.
Ashab Uddin claims his family came to Manipur in 1906.
A people's convention held on March 19 in Imphal, which was attended by leaders of citizen organisations and Manipur University teachers, demanded that no non-local should be given a seat in the Assembly.
Despite the opposition, Biren Singh administered the oath of office and secrecy to Ashab Uddin and 11 other MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Desam has called the bandh to protest against the appointment of Ashab Uddin.
Desam secretary-general Nameirakpam Edison Meitei said the bandh was against the BJP-led government.
He further said appointing a Bengali Muslim as a parliamentary secretary is a "wrong step taken by the government and goes against the rights of indigenous people" of the state.
"Appointing Ashab as parliamentary secretary at a time when people are demanding a legislation to regulate the entry of outsiders is nothing but making fun of the people of Manipur," Desam vice-president Ahebam Anand said.
Official sources said the Biren Singh government today invited leaders of Desam for talks but the students' leaders failed to turn up.
Chief secretary O. Nabakishore Singh has, in a statement, appealed to Desam to call off the proposed bandh, saying it would affect the economic activities of the state and cause hardships to the people.
Nabakishore Singh appealed to transporters, shopowners and other establishments to continue their normal activities during the bandh. He promised them security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised a bandh and blockade-free Manipur during his election rally here.
Governor Najma Heptulla, in her address to the House, had also promised to get rid the state of bandhs and blockades.