Manipur blockade 100 days now, supplies drying up

Imphal : The indefinite economic blockade in Manipur entered its 100th day Tuesday with no signs that the government was making an effort to break the deadlock and an equally insensitive leadership enforcing the strike and holding the common people to ransom.

The turf war between the Nagas and the Kukis has pushed the majority of Manipur’s 2.7 million people into an unprecedented crisis with the landlocked state depending on supplies from outside the region. Trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials pass through the tribal inhabited areas.

“Don’t blame the Nagas now for this deadlock. We want the people of Manipur to come out and question the government about the issue,” said S. Milan, leader of the United Naga Council (UNC).

The UNC is spearheading the blockade on the two National Highways since Aug 21 to counter the economic blockade launched by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) on Aug 1 demanding conversion of the Kuki tribal majority Sadar Hills area into a full-fledged district.

The SHDDC lifted the blockade last week after the state government agreed to their demand of creating a district, a move opposed by the Nagas.

The battle between the two warring tribal groups has led to the people of Manipur suffering for the 100th day with no signs of an end to the hardship, turning the state into a lawless region – a state literally on the throes of a complete breakdown.

Such has been the impact that hospitals were Tuesday running out of oxygen cylinders and life saving drugs, while stocks of all essentials, baby food and petroleum products, were almost drying up.

During the blockade – which some say is the longest in Indian history – four people have been killed, 10 government buildings burnt and residents have faced extensive shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

“It’s a shame that the government is doing nothing, while the leadership of the two agitating groups also need to be condemned for holding the commoners to ransom,” said Anita Devi, a civil rights campaigner.

It’s near anarchy, with people forced to buy a litre of petrol for Rs.200, while a cooking gas cylinder was being sold at Rs.2,000 and a kilogram of potato at Rs.40.

There was a ray of hope when the SHDDC last week announced lifting of the blockade following a written assurance from the state government agreeing to concede to their demand of creating a new hill district.

But the Naga groups led by the UNC were adamant on their stand and continued with their agitation.

The common people are getting restive by the day.

Home Minister P.C. Chidambaram made a two-day visit to Manipur last week – but his mission failed with his assurance failing to cut much ice among the Naga groups.

Manipur has a long history of economic blockades – mostly between the Nagas and the Kukis and the Nagas and the majority Meiteis.

Given the deep tribal, geographical and historical divisions in Manipur, however, few expect it to end there.

The increasingly worrying gulf between the Nagas and the Kukis is unlikely to end. But the big question is who is responsible for this mess in Manipur?

And the answer: a meek government incapable of handling situations, thereby allowing the state to drift into anarchy like situation and an equally insensitive tribal leadership for holding the public to ransom.

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