After 120 days of economic blockade on the arterial national highways 39 and 53, Manipur on Tuesday heaved a sigh of relief. The agitating United Naga Council lifted the economic blockade from 6 am on Tuesday morning.
The blockade has been withdrawn just before Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to the troubled state later this week. The PM is likely to visit Imphal on December 3 to inaugurate projects completed by the present Congress-led coalition government in Manipur that is going to assembly polls early next year. The PM is likely to address a public meeting at the historic Kangla Fort in Imphal.
According to the UNC, it decided to lift the economic blockade on three conditions -- assurance from Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to the Naga body on the Sadar Hills issue; the various appeals from the church and civil organisations to lift the blockade; and also taking into account the sufferings of the people because of the impact of economic blockade.
Sources informed that Chidambaram, who met the UNC delegation in New Delhi on November 22, assured that the government of Manipur would not be allowed to take any unilateral decision on creation of a separate revenue district for Kuki-tribe dominated Sadar Hills areas in Naga-dominated Senapati district of Manipur. This has been the reason of conflict that prolonged the blockade of highways by both the UNC and the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC). The SDHCC, however, lifted the blockade last month after being persuaded by the state government.
This verbal assurance was followed by a written assurance from the ministry of home affairs that came to the UNC on November 24. The UNC, however, said the ongoing one-hour public curfew in Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur from 12 noon will continue until further notice.
The UNC also has appealed to all Naga tribe organisations and the Naga public to remain alert and prepared to face any eventuality in case the government of Manipur takes any unilateral decision on the Sadar Hills issue.
It can be noted that Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) had imposed an indefinite economic blockade along the national highways leading to Manipur from August 1, which converted to indefinite bandh in Sadar Hills area after two days following the killing of three persons during the agitation.
The SHDDC has been demanding the granting of Sadar Hills a full-fledged district status. In reaction, Nagas under the aegis of the UNC protested saying no 'Naga areas' be bifurcated to create the Sadar Hills district.