The deadlock in Northeastern state of Manipur continues as the economic blockade imposed on two of its lifeline national highways is set to enter its third month.
United Naga Council
(UNC), an umbrella group of Nagas, had been imposing economic blockade on National Highways (NHs) 2 and 37 since November 1 protesting against the state government’s decision to create seven new districts.
has now decided to further intensify its protest and there appears no hope of any early diffusion of the crisis and lifting of the blockade. The decision was taken at a meeting of the council on Wednesday.
Due to the blockade, goods-carrying vehicles are unable to enter state’s Imphal Valley, resulting in extreme crisis of essential commodities, including fuel and medicines.
Manipur is a state inhabited by many ethnic communities, prominent among them are the Meities (residing in the Valley) and Nagas
(mostly in the hill districts). Nagas
complain that it is a conspiracy by the state government, led by Okram Ibobi Singh, who is a Meitie to divide the Nagas
under the guise of new district creation. The existing five hill districts and two out of the four districts of the Valley were bifurcated to create the seven new districts.
In retaliation, the Nagas
had laid a siege of the two national highways, which first pass through their areas before entering the Valley. With railway penetration negligible in Manipur, these two highways serve as lifelines for the state for carrying goods.
With the situation becoming unbearable, violence and arson had erupted in Imphal Valley against the economic blockade leading to clamping of curfew by the district administration.
Although the state government has started force-lifting the blockade with the help of additional forces rushed to the state by the Centre, it is yet to result in free flow of vehicles into the Imphal Valley. The Naga-militant outfit, NSCN (IM) has also been fuelling the protests in the hills and encouraging the blockade. It has termed the current crisis as a “creation” of the chief minister and castigated the Centre for not listening to Naga demands but sending additional forces to clear the blockade.
Meanwhile, the UNC
has demanded imposition of President’s Rule in the state.
With Manipur going to polls early next year, the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be treading a cautious path.