Imphal: The 93-day economic blockade in Manipur was partially lifted Tuesday with one of the two striking groups ending its agitation following a written assurance by the state government to create a new hill district.
The agreement between the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) and the state government was signed late Monday in capital Imphal with leaders of the Committee and senior officials present.
The SHDDC had launched the economic blockade Aug 1 on two national highways - Imphal-Dimapur-Guwahati (NH 39) and Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (NH53) - to press the demand for conversion of Kuki tribal majority Sadar Hills area into a full fledged district.
"We have decided to withdraw the blockade following assurance from the government to create a new district," a SHDDC leader said.
The government side at the two-hour meeting was represented by state Chief Secretary D.S. Poonia, an official said.
SHDDC leaders also held a separate meeting with Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.
However, tribal Nagas inhabiting the area are opposed to creation of a Sadar Hills district.
The Nagas have since Aug 1 also launched a counter-blocakde on the two highways opposing the demand by the Kuki people for a separate district.
The Naga counter-blockade is being spearheaded by the United Naga Council (UNC).
"We are continuing with our agitation and there would be no compromise on our stand," a UNC leader said.
Officials have their fingers crossed.
"Though the SHDDC has decided to lift the road blockade, the UNC is still continuing their blockade. I hope good sense would prevail on everybody as the people of the state have been suffering a lot," Deputy Commissioner of Senapati district Pradip Kumar Jha said.
Several civil society groups Tuesday urged the UNC to call of the economic blockade as it was greatly inconveniencing the population.
The 93-day old blockade led to shortage of essentials, petroleum products and cooking gas cylinders, besides medicines.
A cooking gas cylinder began to sell in the black market for as high as Rs.2,000, while a liter of petrol sold at Rs.200.
"We are beginning discussions with the UNC to convince them and lift the blockade so that trucks carrying essentials and other items are able to reach Manipur," a government spokesperson said.
Leaders of SHDDC and UNC are expected to separately meet Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi soon.
"Technically speaking the blockade is still continuing with the UNC adamant on their stand. Efforts are on to break the deadlock," the government spokesperson said.
The two highways are the lifeline to Manipur as supplies of all essentials are brought to the state from adjoining Assam and other parts of India.