Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Relief at last

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The people of Manipur have reason to heave a sigh of relief for the present. The United Naga Council has suspended its economic blockade which had plunged the state into a crisis for four months choking off food, medical and fuel supplies. The end of the blockade comes a few days ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the state. Manipur is land-locked and connected with the rest of India by two highways, NH 2 and NH 37. Blockading the two highways for so many days was like cutting off the lifeline of the state. Essential drugs were in short supply. People were forced to pay Rs. 2,000 for an LPG cylinder and Rs. 200 for a litre of petrol in the grey market. A key reason for suspending the blockade was Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s recent assurance that the government would not take any unilateral decision on the Sadar Hill issue. Nagas will also be consulted as Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had committed. This was the longest such blockade in Manipur. Its suspension does not mean normalcy, however. The militant Kanglopak Communist Party (Military Council) has called a three day strike to protest against the killing of a member.

The blockade was started by the Kuki-dominated committee wanting the Sadar Hills subdivision to become a separate district. Nagas in Manipur were against it as parts of Naga-dominated Senapati district would then be in the proposed new district. The Kukis withdrew their blockade on October 31 as the Chief Minister promised to look into their demand. Manipur has multiple problems. Militancy is rampant. The clash with NSCN (IM) over the territorial issue is another irritant. But the Kuki-Naga dispute should not have been such a menace if Ibobi Singh’s government had been firm enough. The entire population was the victim.

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