With the Centre on Monday deciding to send security forces to remove the 65-day-old blockade of two national highways in the northeast by Naga groups, the agitators showed some signs of relenting by hinting at a temporary suspension of their stir.
The Home Ministry decided to send 16 companies (about 1,600 personnel) of central paramilitary forces, including one women company to assist the Manipur government to clear the blocked highways since April 11. Besides six companies are also being sent to Nagaland.
"We have decided to send Central forces to remove the blockade," Home Secretary G K Pillai told PTI.
He said chief secretaries of Nagaland and Manipur will meet in New Delhi on Wednesday to review the situation.
Later in the day, a five-member delegation of Nagaland Students Federation (NSF) met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and had about an hour-long meeting on the ongoing crisis.
"We had a very good meeting with the prime minister and submitted our representation. He listened to us and assured us an early solution to the ongoing problem. He asked us to create a peaceful atmosphere for talks and resolve the issue," NSF advisor Achumbemo Kikon told reporters in New Delhi.
"All our senior leaders of different students unions are meeting at Kohima. They shall be discussing about the developments and also the assurances given to us by the prime minister. After forming a consensus, we may think of temporarily lifting of the blockade," he said.
However, Kikon maintained the relaxation will be on a temporary basis subject to the acceptance of their conditions.
"The protest will be suspended temporarily if the Manipur Government agrees to remove the commandos and address other issues," he said, adding a decision is likely to be taken by tomorrow.
The All Naga Students' Association (ANSAM) had launched the blockade to protest holding of elections to six autonomous district councils in the Hills which, it alleged, were given not enough power to carry out development works.
The blockade of the National Highway 39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and 53 (Imphal-Silchar), passing through Nagaland and connecting Manipur, was intensified after Manipur refused entry to NSCN-IM general secretary T Muivah on May 3 to visit his ancestral home there.
About 300-400 trucks carrying essentials ply daily on the two highways. The blockade has pushed Manipur on the verge of a breakdown with stocks of all essentials commodities, including baby food and life saving drugs, almost drying up.
The Naga students blamed Pillai and Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh for the present crisis.
"Singh is not concerned about the cause of the people. His government was on the verge of collapse. Hence he manipulated the itinerary related to Muivah visit to motivate his people resulting in the blockade," Kikon claimed.
"We are also not happy with Union Home Secretary G K Pillai. He is triggering the words in favour of the Manipur government," he leader alleged.
The Naga leaders also met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.