The state of affairs remains grim in Manipur even though a crippling 121-day economic blockade has been temporarily lifted, says a minister while stressing that any harsh action against protestors could lead to a civil war-like situation.
"The withdrawal of the national highway blockade will come as a respite for Manipuris, but the state government needs to go a long way in resolving ethnic issues between the Kuki and Naga tribes in the state," a Manipur minister told a visiting IANS correspondent on condition of anonymity.
The United Naga Council (UNC) Monday lifted the blockade ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the state Dec 3, but the 121-day blockade has plunged the strife-torn northeastern state into a severe economic crisis.
Asked why the Congress government in the state had remained a mute spectator, the minister said: "We cannot take stringent action against Kukis and Nagas who are our people. Any harsh action against them could have lead to a civil war-like situation in the state."
The minister blamed the Congress-led central government for the stalemate in the state.
"It is not fair to hold the state government responsible for the standstill. The government at the centre also has some responsibility," said the minister, who said in the present tense situation he would not like to be identified by name.
The minister pointed out that the state authority does not have a strong grip on its people and various tribes in Manipur.
"With a population of 2.7 million, there are 36 tribes in the state. And if any tribe has some grievances, it reaches the centre, not us. This creates problems as they need to tell their problems to us, not the centre," said the minister.
However, he lamented that the Kukis and Nagas were not sensitive to the miseries of the common people.
"These people are not educated and do not think for the welfare of the state. They only fight for their status and do not consider the state as their own," rues the minister.
It all began when an economic blockade was launched by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) Aug 1 to demand conversion of the Kuki tribal majority Sadar Hills area into a full-fledged district.
It lifted the blockade on two highways -- Imphal-Dimapur-Guwahati (NH39) and Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (NH53) -- on the 92nd day after the state government agreed to their demand of creating a district, a move opposed by the Nagas.
But the UNC has been spearheading a counter blockade on the two national highways since Aug 21.
The blockade has led to severe shortage of essentials, petroleum products and cooking gas cylinders, besides medicines and machines, causing untold misery to Manipur residents.
Thirteen interest rate increases by the Reserve Bank of India have failed to rein in wholesale prices, which have been climbing more than 9 % a month on an annual basis for almost a year.