Call off blockade or face action, government to Naga groups

Shillong/Imphal, June 4 (IANS) The government Friday warned of tough measures against striking Naga groups which have enforced an indefinite economic blockade of Manipur that entered a record 55 days.

‘The patience of the central government is running out and we shall have to come down hard on various students’ groups enforcing this illegal blockade. They must call it off immediately or else face action,’ union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters in Shillong.

Several Naga groups April 11 called an indefinite blockade of National Highway 39, Manipur’s main lifeline, to protest holding of autonomous council elections and since May 6 against the decision of the state government not to allow Naga separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah to visit his birthplace.

The Manipur government had banned 75-year-old Muivah’s trip to his home village, saying it could stoke unrest. Muivah has since deferred his visit.

The non-stop blockade led to an acute food crisis in Manipur with trucks carrying essentials and medicines stranded in the adjoining state of Nagaland with protesters laying a siege on National Highway 39.

Landlocked Manipur depends on supplies from outside the region with trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials passing through Nagaland.

Meanwhile, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh Friday sought urgent intervention by New Delhi to break the deadlock over the indefinite economic blockade.

‘Definitely, the central government should have intervened and we still want New Delhi to help break the stalemate on a priority basis to get us tide over the crisis,’ the chief minister told reporters.

‘We tried our best to airlift essentials and bring in supplies through National Highway 53 (connecting Assam to Manipur), but are still unable to meet the requirements,’ he said.

‘The government of India must try to convince Muivah to call off the blockade,’ he added.

There are views that Muivah was holding Manipur to ransom – taking advantage of the terrain and the geo-location of National Highway 39 that passes through Nagaland.

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