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Manipur soliloquy

Editorial |

There is no end to ordeals and suffering of the people of Manipur’s Imphal valley caused by the indefinite economic blockade of the state’s two main national highways since 1 November last year. The Manipur-based United Naga Council, that proclaims its loyalty to the NSCN(IM) leadership, imposed the blockade because the Nagas in Senapati district adjoining Nagaland find it difficult to accept a separate revenue entity at Kuki-dominated Kangpokpi, that is part of their district, claiming it will harm their cause of Greater Nagaland. Amidst all this, on 8 December, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh announced the creation of seven new districts and Kangpokpi was one of them. For the Kukis it is a dream come true, as they had been clamouring for this since the early 1980s.

The Centre has washed its hands of the affair and has put the onus of breaking the blockade entirely on the Chief Minister by sending additional 4,000 para-military personnel. He was able to bring home, under armed escort, a number of goods-laden vehicles stranded for days along the Assam and Nagaland borders. But this is no solace. Last month when some UNC leaders met Union home minister Rajnath Singh he reportedly gave them only a few minutes’ hearing and nothing substantial emerged on the issue of the blockade, apparently because telling them to end it would have antagonised the NSCN(IM) leadership. After returning home the UNC leaders announced their resolve to intensify the agitation. Prolonging the blockade will be to no one’s advantage as such forced closures in the past have not paid off. If the blockade is further prolonged it has every possibility of snowballing into ethnic clashes. Today, sadly enough, that feeling of oneness that existed between the people of the valley and the hills has all but disappeared. The lesson of the 1990s Naga-Kuki ethnic feud, that left over 1,500 innocent dead, should not be lost on them.