Twenty days after a tribal group imposed an indefinite economic blockade to bargain for a separate hill district, another one to counter it began from on Sunday.
The indefinite highway bandh called by the United Naga Council (UNC) from Sunday was one up on the blockade the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee imposed from July 31 midnight. It added the sparingly used National Highway 150 to NH39 and NH53 under the purview of the bandh.
NH39 and NH53 are Manipur’s lifelines. These two highways pass through Naga-inhabited hills to reach Imphal Valley. Cutting them off to starve the state and exert pressure on local authorities has been the most preferred form of agitation.
“The attempt to bifurcate the Naga areas to create new districts is not acceptable to us. We organized mass rallies across four hill districts to arrive at the decision of imposing an economic blockade,” an UNC spokesperson said.
Nagas feel the Congress government led by Okram Ibobi Singh has been backing the pro-district movements. If the government accedes, the Kuki tribe-dominated Sadar Hills will be carved out of Senapati district and Jiribam out of Tamenglong district. Nagas dominate Senapati and Tamenglong.
According to the UNC, the Manipur government had signed an agreement stating that the Sadar Hills issue would be resolved only through consensus. But pro-district agitators have refused to buy the argument.
“The (district) demand is reasonable, but it needs serious discussion,” said Ibobi Singh. “Acceding to demands cannot be in a hurry.”
The ongoing highway blockade has impacted the prices of essential commodities besides leading to scarcity of petroleum products. Even the judiciary has not been functioning properly with lawyers unable to attend the court due to a fuel crisis. Some oil outlets have gone dry while others are rationing fuel.