Bid for new district results in highway blockade in Manipur
Imphal: Issues at the centre are yet again threatening to break up the peripheral regions of India.
While Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign, 2G scandal and Telangana movement are holding centre stage, the northeastern state of Manipur, home to around 2.7 million people, is threatening to erupt following demands for creation of more revenue districts.
The demand has resulted in a twin economic blockade on all three of the national highways — NH 39, 53 and 150 — for more than two months now, choking off all supplies to this landlocked state which depends solely on the highways for import of essential commodities from other parts of the country.
The blockade began on July 31, when the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee (SHDDC) closed NH 39 and 53 to press for their demand of converting the Kuki-majority Sadar hills area in Naga-majority Senapati district into a full-fledged district.
The Naga and Kuki ethnic communities live mostly in the hills of Manipur, while the majority community, the Meiteis, prefer the valley.
The apex Naga body in Manipur, the United Naga Council, is opposed to giving up land from the Naga villages for the new district, and has imposed counter-blockades on all three national highways from August 21 last.
This has spelt disaster for the Manipuri people, who are affected not only by the artificial scarcity of food and medicines, but also haunted by memories of various ethnic clashes in the last decade which left thousands dead and many more homeless.
"The government keeps saying that they will bring in food and medicines by providing security to the trucks but when I go to buy, everything has gone into the black market," said 32-year-old N. Romita of Nongpok Sekmai village in Thoubal district, around 35 kilometres from Manipur's capital city, Imphal. However, there is little sign that the impasse will let up soon. The state government has promised that it will act after the newly-constituted District Re-organisation Commission finishes its review of the district boundaries of the state and submit its report within three months.
But the conflicting parties have little trust on the government assurances. Appeals from the Centre, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram, to withdraw the blockades have also failed.
"We have been denied a separate Sadar Hills district for more than 40 years now despite repeated assurances by successive governments. We will continue our agitation until our demand is met," said Rose Mangshi Haokip, executive member of the SHDDC.