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[BKARTS] 1.45 lakh books destroyed in state's worst act of vandalism

1.45 lakh books destroyed in state's worst act of vandalism

The Imphal Free Press

IMPHAL, Apr 13: In a thoughtless and outrageous act that has deprived the
state of one of its major storehouses of knowledge, activists of the Meetei
Erol Eyek Loinasinlon Apunba Lup burnt down the state Central library at
Keisampat this afternoon, destroying over 1,45,000 books worth over Rs. 10
crores, many of them old and irreplacable editions.

The community information centre, CIC, attached to the state Central library
was also destroyed in the devastating fire, while two students who were
studying inside the library were injured.

The incident is seen to be the result of a security lapse, as there had been
intelligence reports that libraries and similar institutions could be
targeted as part of the intensification of the MEELAL's stir. The library
authorities had also reportedly sought security from the SP, Imphal west,
but the request was ignored.

Reports said that around 15 to 30 youths, including some girls, after
threatening and intimidating the library employees and visitors, sprinkled
petrol on the library bookshelves and in various rooms and set them on fire
at around 4:30 pm this afternoon.

Most of the library employees and visitors were detained inside a room at
the library, but they got out before the fire swallowed the building.

Two visitors at the library, identified as Nahakpam Robin, 25, of
Thambalkhong Sabal Leikai, and Phairenjam David, 19, of Sagolband Bijoy
Govinda, were trapped inside the main doorways got caught in the raging

However, they managed to get out in time by breaking one of the library
windows and leaping out of it in sheer desperation. They were injured at
their hands and legs in the process, and have been admitted to the RIMS

Fire tenders of the Manipur Fire Service arrived soon after the alarm was
given by some of the employees, but their efforts were not enough and
reinforcements in the shape of two newly acquired water cannons of the state
police had to be called in. Even with their aid, it took over four hours to
extinguish the fire. By then almost the entire collection of books at the
library had been reduced to ashes, along with computers and other equipment
at the community information centre attached to it.

Bemoaning the arson, the chief librarian, Heikrujam Devendra Singh, said
many priceless and irreplacable books, historical records, etc acquired by
the library since its establishment in the year 1958 and which have
benefitted thousands of scholars, researchers, and book lovers of the state
have been lost.

Altogether some 1,45,000 books worth over Rs. 10 crores have been lost,
including a number of brand-new books which were acquired recently, the
chief librarian disclosed.

Devendra, who was away at the state secretariat at the time of the incident,
further disclosed that he had informed the SP, Imphal west, some 20 days
back, of the possibility of such an attack, and sought security protection.

In the wake of the incident, the arts and culture minister, Ph Parijat,
senior police officers, including ADGP Y Joykumar, visited the spot.

An angry Parijat gave the library employees a tongue-lashing for failing to
offer the arsonists any resistance and failing to inform the police in time.

On the other hand, the additional DGP, Y Joykumar, speaking briefly to
mediapersons, said the police has arrested two persons suspected to be
involved in the crime. The two, Thangjam Anandkumar, and Leisangthem Surjit,
both residents of Uripok were picked up from the Governor's road, he stated.

The ADGP further said the police would take appropriate action against the
persons and organisations involved in the arson.

It is also learnt that an emergency security meeting was held at the office
of the DGP, Manipur in the wake of the incident, focussing on the violent
activities of the pro-Mayek agitators. The meeting reportedly decided to
enhance security measures at all government establishments likely to be
targeted similarly by the agitators.

In the meantime, an unrepentent MEELAL has claimed responsibility for
burning down the state library.

The MEELAL, in a statement, also said it was responsible for the torching of
a truck carrying vegetables at Nagamapal last night.
The MEELAL has also given a deadline of April 15 to the vernacular daily,
the Ireipak, for carrying news in Meetei Mayek script on its frontpages.


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