A video journalist has been shot dead by police at a rally against the alleged sexual assault on an actress in the northeastern state of Manipur.
Thangjam Dijamani, who worked for the state’s Prime News channel, was killed on Sunday after officers opened fire during the protest in Manipur’s capital, Imphal.
“I am shocked to see one of our colleagues killed like this,” A Mobi, president of Manipur’s journalist federation, told Al Jazeera.
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Local journalist David Mayum added: “He had two small children and he was the only earning member of his family.”
Mass protests over sexual assaults against women have engulfed India in recent days. Thousands of people took to the streets of New Delhi before news of an assault against an actress named Momoko prompted further public outrage in Imphal – more than 2,000km from the country’s capital.
Momoko has waived her right to anonymity.
“The protesters were setting up roadblocks with logs of wood and blazing car tyres,” said Mayum.
“The police were chasing them away but once the police were gone they would come back.”
Five police personnel have reportedly been suspended for their actions during the rally. Officials said the journalist was shot by accident while police attempted to disperse protesters.
The strike, called by the Manipur Film Forum and supported by a host of regional groups, started on Saturday and has paralysed life in the state for the past few days. On Sunday, rocks were pelted at police as tensions rose before the shooting.
“We want justice for this brazen act of crime against women,” said gender dynamic expert Dr Vijaylakshmi Brara. “In our part of India, crime against women is much less than in the mainland, so this incident upsets us so much.”
Further provoking the ire of many Manipuris, the man accused of assaulting Momoko at a concert near the border with Myanmar on Tuesday was reported to be a guerrilla fighter belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), a group which demands a sovereign state for the mostly Christian Naga tribe of northeast India and neighbouring Myanmar.
Manipur government had to impose curfew in the whole of Imphal valley to control the situation after protestors continued to clash with police for the third successive day, setting vehicles on fire and blocking roads with logs of wood.
The indefinite strike continued for the third successive day. To placate the protestors, Manipur government announced a cash reward of half a million Indian rupees ($10,000) for information that could lead to the arrest of the NSCN leader Livingstone Anal who is accused of molesting the actress Momoko.
The NSCN is the strongest of the many separatist groups in the region, but it has been engaged in negotiations with the Indian federal government since declaring a ceasefire in 1997.
Indian officials have reportedly been prepared to concede many of the NSCN demands – but not to grant full independence. Most Manipuris fiercely resist the NSCN’s plans for a “greater Naga state”, which would leave their own state greatly diminished.