Naga blockade of Manipur enters 42nd day

Imphal, May 23 (IANS) The ongoing deadlock in Manipur entered its 42nd day Sunday with the main lifeline, National Highway 39, remaining paralysed due to an indefinite economic blockade enforced by Naga tribal groups, although supply of essentials has started trickling in through an alternative route, besides airdropping of food, fuel and medicines, in recent days.

‘The crisis is far from over although there is some relief as we managed to get in some supplies through National Highway 53 (via Assam) and several sorties carrying food and medicines, including fuel, airlifted from Assam and other parts of the country,’ Manipur government spokesperson N. Biren Singh said.

Manipur is in turmoil since April. First, Naga groups residing in Manipur enforced an indefinite economic blockade April 11 protesting the state government’s decision to hold autonomous council elections and then since May 6 over the state government refusing permission to Naga separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah to visit his ancestral village in Manipur’s Ukhrul district.

The decision by Muivah, leader of the rival National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah faction, to visit his ancestral village in Manipur’s Ukhrul district led to bloody clashes with three Naga protestors killed in firing by Manipur police May 6.

The Manipur government has banned Muivah’s visit saying it would incite communal tension in the state.

The deadlock over Muivah’s visit has led to several Naga groups enforcing an indefinite economic blockade with hundreds of trucks carrying essentials stranded in the adjoining state of Nagaland with protesters laying a siege on National Highway 39 – the main lifeline to Manipur.

This has triggered an acute food crisis in Manipur with the state forced to airlift supplies of essentials and medicines — such was the situation that even hospitals were compelled to stop routine surgeries due to dearth of oxygen cylinders.

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

On Sunday, the Manipur government once again reiterated its stand against allowing Muivah to visit the state.

‘Under no circumstances shall we allow Muivah to step into Manipur, either by road or by helicopter,’ chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said.

‘People of Manipur are ready to meet the challenge and survive the ordeal due to the economic blockade. We are making arrangements to get in enough supplies to tide over the crisis,’ Biren Singh said.

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