Manipur blockade: 100 days and counting…

Rd. Alexander

As the economic blockade in Manipur completed 100 days on the 8th of November, there are a few questions that need to be answered. One amongst them is: “For how long will the blockade continue?” It’s completed 100 days and is counting….

The economic blockade, which started on the 1st of August, has led to acute shortage of essential commodities in the state such as food, fuel and medicine. According to reports, the price of fuel (petrol and diesel) has hit a high of Rs 150-200 per liter while the price of cooking gas is at Rs 1500-2000 per cylinder in the black market; supplies have reportedly run out and loaded goods trucks have been stopped from entering the state. This means that the common people are having to bear the brunt of the black marketers, the agitation and high prices.

What is also saddening is the fact that there is little or no intervention from the government, both from the state and the centre, making the situation of the state a sad plight. And this is another reason why the count of the number of blockade days could go on increasing.

While the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee (SHDDC), which started the blockade of NHs 53 and 39 in their demand for a Kuki majority district, might have called off the blockade after a written assurance from the Ibobi Singh led Manipur government, the Nagas of the state under the aegis of the United Naga Council (UNC) and All Naga Students` Association of Manipur (ANSAM) have only intensified their counter blockade. The Nagas feel that their demand for a ‘Greater Nagaland’ or ‘Nagalim’ has been ignored while the government has conceded to the demand for a Sadar Hills District which would cut out a major chunk of Naga occupied districts in the state.

Perhaps, this action of the Ibobi Singh government of ‘favouring’ the SHDDC over the UNC and ANSAM has only worsened the situation in the region. The Kukis and the Nagas in the state have a history of ethnic violence that dates back to the early nineties, and this act of the state government could just add fuel to it. This also means that the blockade could go on unless the Manipur government finds a better solution or handles it better.

The visit of Home Minister, P Chidambaram, to the state in the first week of November was seen by many as damage control after the Manipur government had agreed to the demand of the SHDDC; the central government could really do nothing much and there has been hardly any interference from the part of the UPA government in the state either. Is this because the state does not really affect the economic condition of the country or is it an issue too small for the central government to deal with? That is for the central government to answer. However, considering this act of the government, it is not hard to imagine that the people of the state consider themselves ‘outsiders’ or as being ‘neglected’.

In reality, there is no easy or one way solution to the problem of the state. For a state where the Meiteis are the majority of the ethnic group in a population of 2.7 million, (they form about 60 percent of the total population) they would never ever give in to the demands of the Nagas (they occupy about 60-70 percent of the total land area but form just about 20-30 percent of the population) for a ‘Greater Nagaland’ or ‘Nagalim’ as it would mean a major chunk of their homeland attached to Nagaland.

Hence, one does not see a possible or easy solution to the problems of the Nagas and the Kukis in the state. Perhaps, one of the solutions could be for the government to intervene and bring about an understanding between the different groups, and make them live in peace. But only if that was as easy as saying it.

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