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Why Manipur made the headlines in 2011

December 31, 2011 13:39 IST

The year 2011 kept the troubled state of Manipur in the news over an unprecedented economic blockade imposed on the state populace by two agitating organisations for about 120 days since August 1 while the fasting anti-AFSPA crusader Irom Sharmila completed 11 years of struggle in confinement demanding withdrawal of the 'Draconian Act' that continued to remain in force in her state.

Lots of dust was whipped up Manipur in the wake of a media report that the central government was considering to grant Nagas in North East a 'supra state' ( single administrative mechanism for all Naga-dominated areas in the N-E) as a consequence of the on-going Naga peace talks with Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) or the NSCN-IM.

The Manipur government, which has a sizeable Naga population in its hill districts and has been opposed to the NSCN-IM's known core demand for a 'Greater Nagalim', immediately knocked at the Centre's door seeking clarification about the 'supra state' concept that was being circulated in a section of the media much to the chagrin of non-Naga communities and organisations in Manipur.

However, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Home Minister P Chidambaram managed to settle the issue by assuring that blue print of a so called 'supra state' to Nagas was non-existent.

The state hogged the headlines for the unprecedented 120-day economic blockade that sapped the common population since August 1 this year. The blockade along the arterial National Highways 39 and 53 was first called by Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) since August 1 only to be called off on November 1 following an assurance in black and white given by the Manipur government to upgrade Kuki-tribe-dominated Sadar Hills areas to a full-fledged district subject to recommendation by the District Reorganisation Committee headed by the state Chief Secretary.

However, that was only one barrier overcome to ease the prolonged blockade on Manipur and the United Naga Council (UNC), which called for counter blockade from August 21 last opposing a separate Sadar Hills district carving out of Naga inhabited areas, continued with the blockade along the same two highways connecting the land-locked Manipur to the rest of the country.

The people continued to suffer under the scarcity of fuels, medicines and steeping prices of all commodities due to short supply. Cooking gas cylinder was being sold in the black market for as high as Rs 2,000 while a litre of petrol cost at Rs 200.

The blockade continued till November 29 before the UNC decided to lift it on being assured by the government that there was no immediate plan to create a full-fledged Sadar Hills district in the state.

All along Irom Sharmila continued with her crusade against the AFSPA under confinement in a high-security hospital ward where she is being force-fed through nose to keep her alive.

It started after she was devastated by the killing of ten innocent villagers by personnel from Assam Rifles on November 2, 2000 at Malom village at the edge of Imphal. She was then aged 28 and an employee of a local daily in Imphal.

In order to highlight o highlight Sharmila's crusade AFSPA, the 'Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign' group launched a public caravan from Srinagar to Imphal from October 16 this year. The caravan comprising about 20-22 people covered 10 states and a distance of about 4500 km on way to Imphal in Manipur from Srinagar.

A nationwide signature campaign too was launched on October 2 on Gandhi Jayanti in New Delhi by the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign and it spread to cover 21 states in the country in no time. The signature campaign continued till December 8 and the all the signatures collected were later handed over to President Pratibha Patil. 

Sportspersons from the state too made the headlines this year.

Manipuri sportspersons won seven medals for the country in the Commonwealth Games -- three gold, two silver and two bronze. The three gold medals were clinched by Yumnam Renubala Chanu (58 kg category of women's weightlifting), Laishram Bombela (women's archery recurve team event) and Mayengbam Suranjoy (52 kg category of men's boxing). 

Soniya Chanu won silver medal in 48 kg women's weightlifting and Bheigyabati Chanu won silver medal in women's archery compound team event. The two bronze medals were won by L Monika Devi (75 kg category of women's weightlifting) and A Sandhyarani (48 kg category of women's weightlifting). 

K Anurag