Manipur blockade lifted after 92 days

Imphal : The economic blockade in Manipur was called off after 92 days Tuesday following a written assurance by the state government to create a new hill district, striking leaders said.

The agreement between the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) and the state government was signed around midnight in capital Imphal with leaders of the Committee and senior officials present at the meeting.

The SHDCC had launched the economic blockade Aug 1 on two national highways – Imphal-Dimapur-Guwahati (NH 39) and Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (NH53) – to press their demand for conversion of Kuki tribal majority Sadar Hills area into a full fledged district.

“We have decided to withdraw the blockade following assurance from the government to create a new district,” a SHDCC leader said.

The government side was represented by state Chief Secretary D.S. Poonia.

However, tribal Nagas inhabiting the area are opposed to creation of a Sadar Hills district. The Nagas have since Aug 1 also launched a counter-blockade on the two highways opposing the demand by the Kuki tribal people for a separate district.

The Naga counter-blockade is being spearheaded by the United Naga Council (UNC).

There is still no word from the UNC on its response to the agreement although some leaders said the blockade would continue.

Several civil society groups Tuesday urged the UNC to call of the economic blockade as it was greatly inconveniencing the local population.

The 92-day old blockade had led to shortage of essentials, petroleum products and cooking gas cylinders, besides medicines.

A cooking gas cylinder was sold at the black market for as high as Rs.2,000, while a litre of petrol sold at Rs.200.

“We are beginning discussions with the UNC to convince them and lift the blockade so that trucks carrying essentials and other items are able to reach Manipur,” a government spokesperson said.

The two highways are the lifeline to Manipur as supplies of all essentials are brought to the state from adjoining Assam and other parts of India.

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