Manipur’s longest economic blockade, which started on November 1 last year, will come to an end on Sunday midnight, four days after the state’s first BJP-led government assumed office.
The United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of Nagas in the state, decided to call off the 139-day-long blockade of the state’s two national highways, after talks with representatives from the state and Centre earlier in the day.
“The blockade will be lifted from Sunday midnight following an understanding reached during the talks,” UNC general secretary S Milan told HT over phone from district headquarters of Senapati, 60 km north of Imphal.
As per the agreement, the state government will unconditionally release UNC President Gaidon Kamei and its publicity secretary Stephen Lamkang, who were arrested for their alleged roles in violence during the blockade, and also close all cases against Naga leaders.
Manipur has been reeling under indefinite economic blockade of the NH 2 and 37 by the UNC in protest against the creation of Sadar Hills and Jiribam into full fledged districts by the state’s erstwhile Congress government.
While the UNC maintained the new districts affect the interest of the Nagas, the Congress government said it was done for administrative convenience.
The blockade was a major issue during this month’s election with the BJP promising to end it soon after assuming power.
The state’s first BJP chief minister N. Biren Singh also stated after assuming office on Wednesday that his government’s first priority would be to hold talks with the UNC and end the blockade.
“The Manipur government acknowledged that creation of the new districts were against past deals with us and assured there will be further dialogues to address our concerns,” Milan said.
In the initial months of the blockade, the state witnessed crippling scarcity of supplies especially petroleum products and essential medicines. It eased a bit when convoys of trucks started reaching Imphal under heavy security.
During the blockade of the state’s lifelines, three security personnel were killed and over a dozen injured in attacks allegedly by cadres of the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah).
Additional chief secretary Suresh Babu and commissioner (Home) Radha Kumar represented Manipur government while joint secretary (in-charge of Northeast) in the home ministry Satyender Garg represented the Centre in the tripartite talks.
The next round of parleys is expected to be held within a month.