More than 60 days after Naga students cut off supplies to neighbouring Manipur, the government on Monday announced its decision to move in central forces to the two states to reopen the two highways that constitute Manipur’s lifeline.
“We have decided to send Central forces to remove the blockade,” Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said.
The home secretary said 22 companies of central paramilitary forces were being deployed — 6 in Nagaland and 16 in Manipur — along NH39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH53 (Imphal-Silchar) to lift the blockade. Each paramilitary company has about 100 personnel.
Led by the Naga students groups, protesters had started the blockade on April 11 to protest elections to six autonomous district councils in the Hills. The protest was intensified in the first week of May when reports came in that NSCN(IM) general secretary T. Muivah was going to visit his ancestral village in Manipur.
In retaliation, several groups in Manipur blocked roads within the state that lead to Naga dominated regions.
Pillai said chief secretaries of Nagaland and Manipur would meet on Wednesday to review the situation.
Meeting with PM
Hours after the Centre announced its decision to launch a crackdown, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met a delegation of Nagaland Students Federation led by Mutsikhoyo Yhobu.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend the blockade after consultations with senior members in Kohima,” NSF leader Samuel later announced.
“We had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister... He assured us an early solution to the problem,” said Achumbemo Kikon, advisor, NSF. “He asked the young students of the state to create a peaceful atmosphere and resolve the issue.”
Kikon said he was impressed by the PM’s assurance and a meeting has been called by the different federations supporting the protest to form a consensus.
However, Kikon said, the relaxation will strictly be on temporary basis, subject to acceptance of their conditions.