The United Naga Council (UNC), a conglomeration of Naga groups, seems bent on breaking all records of economic blockades in Manipur.
On January 15, Manipur quietly slipped into the 76th day of an economic blockade that has paralysed the state. And there seems no end in sight.
The UNC has been imposing economic blockade since November 1 protesting against the Congress-led Manipur government’s decision to carve out seven new districts in the hill areas, splitting up older districts dominated by members of the Naga groups.
The ethnic Naga groups are blocking two major highways demanding tripartite talks with the Centre and the state government. However, the Congress government led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh seems to be in no mood to negotiate.
The Manipur government had arrested the UNC President and Publicity Secretary on November 25 to crush the protest by force.
Due to blockade of fuel and other essential commodities, prices shot up and economic activity was hit badly. The situation was made worse by the note ban move, which dried up flows of cash.
In response to this, residents of the Valley belonging to the Meitei ethnic group launched a counter-blockade, blocking the road between Imphal and Ukhrul, one of the Naga-dominated hill districts.
The most affected areas were the tribal dominated areas in the rural and hill areas inhabited by Kuki and Naga populace.
Imphal valley which caters to almost 90 per cent of the population of the state has a majority of Meiteis. The hills which have the 90 per cent of land are mostly the Naga, Kukis and the other hill tribes.
The state government and the civil societies of Manipur have blamed the Centre and the NSCN (IM) for the issue as the UNC is the frontal organisation of NSCN(IM). The government is holding talks with the NSCN(IM).
A Goodwill Mission for Peaceful Co-existence (GMPC) formed by all the communities of Manipur specially Naga, Kuki, Muslim, Meitei and other groups have asked the Centre and the state to resolve the crisis as people were facing problems.
Clearly, the economic blockade is just a symptom of a much older and broader problem. The current Congress government in Manipur is facing strong anti-incumbency factor as BJP has made major gains in Municipality and Autonomous Council elections. The BJP has accused Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh of not doing enough to end the ongoing economic blockade. BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre can end the problem in three days, but the Chief Minister and Congress-led government need to allow deployment of central forces in the state.