Naga groups lift 68-day Manipur blockade

Imphal, June 18 (IANS) An indefinite economic blockade of Manipur by several Naga groups ended Friday with the last of the two splinter organisations calling off the 68-day agitation that led to shortage of food and medicines in the state.

The All Nagaland Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) and the United Naga Council (UNC) announced the suspension of their economic blockade from Friday evening.

The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the apex group that called the indefinite blockade, last week withdrew the strike after their leaders met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

‘Both the UNC and the ANSAM decided to temporarily suspend the blockade from this evening (Friday) after we had a detailed discussion with the NSF leaders,’ a UNC leader said.

The three Naga groups had blocked highways into the state to protest against a Manipur government ban on separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah from visiting his birthplace in Manipur.

The blockade began April 11 and led to severe shortages of food, medicines and fuel, leading to soaring prices.

But despite the blockade being finally lifted, trucks are unlikely to roll into Manipur with drivers unwilling to ply on National Highway 39 linking Assam to Manipur via Nagaland.

‘There is a growing fear factor about possible attacks on truckers by Naga protestors along the route leading to Manipur,’ a member of the Manipur Truck Owners Welfare Association said.

‘Who would ensure the safety of the drivers and the trucks if something untoward happens as the animosity between the two states has grown manifold?’

Meanwhile, the central government has airlifted at least five companies (about 500 personnel) of paramilitary troopers to Manipur for escorting trucks carrying essentials into the state.

‘It still remains uncertain when trucks would start coming into Manipur. It now all depends on the association to convince the drivers,’ a Manipur police official said.

‘From our side we shall ensure full security for the trucks.’

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