TODAY -
MEELAL torches Central Library office
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, April 13: Stepping up their agitation to demand the implementation of Meetei Mayek from this year, MEELAL activists set on fire the State Central Library today at about 4.30 pm destroying books worth over Rs 10 crores besides damaging a large chunk of the building.

In a statement MEELAL said that the library was set on fire to signal the intensification of the agitation.

Significantly the Central Library is situated just behind the Raj Bhawan with only a wall separating the compound of Raj Bhawan from the library.

Two youths suspected to be involved in the arson were picked up from Governor’s Road near the Social Welfare office moments after the incident, said police source identifying the arrested persons as Meetei Mayek instructors named as Thongam Ananda (24) of Uripok Sinam Leikai and Leishangthem Surjit (26) of Uripok Sorbon Thingel.

A furious Art and Culture Minister Ph Parijat informed news persons that stringent action would be initiated against the Library officials for not raising any alarm and added that burning down a store-house of knowledge has never been witnessed anywhere in the world regardless of the seriousness of the movement/agitation.

Making a spot inspection soon after the incident, the Minister also instructed the SP concerned to record the statements of all the Library employees.

Significantly, the Librarian disclosed that the SP of Imphal West was verbally cautioned of the possibility of agitators targeting the Central Library, which was categorically denied by the SP who said that a report was given by the Librarian only after the Library was torched.

When Additional DG Y Joykumar (LO) was asked as to who could be behind the incident, he replied, ‘obviously MEELAL’.

On security measures, Joykumar said following information of the general threat posed by the agitators, mobile police teams were deployed at strategic locations even though security provision at all the Govt offices could not be made.

Manipur Library Association strongly condemning arson described the act as irresponsible and an attempt to deny the general public right to information and knowledge.

The fire not only burnt a large number of books and articles stored in the Library office but also destroyed computer and accessories kept for public usage at the Community Information Centre which is attested to the Library office building.

According to spot report, about 20 persons stormed into the library office complex located on the southern side of the high security Raj Bhavan and similarly fortified Electricity Dept on the western side, and herded the employees at the administrative block.

The arsonists then split into each of the rooms and poured kerosene over every available paper materials and books from about ten jars before setting them afire.

Even when the fire was lit there were several readers at other adjoining rooms, detailed eye witnesses adding that the attackers made a hasty retreat from the Library premises moments after setting the building ablaze.

As the inferno began to spread fast the employees and readers too ran to a safe distance.

Fire Service sources said the inferno report was received at 4.31pm and immediately pressed into service seven fire tenders with police personnel joining the fire fighting with two water cannons.

When contacted the Chief Librarian Heigrujam Debendra said the Library established in 1968 was filled with over 1.40 lakhs books and estimated the damage at about Rs 10 crores.

Two youths said to be scouring through the library books at the time of the incident suffered burnt at the legs and hands when they tried to rushed out amid the blaze and thick smoke.


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