Imphal/Kohima, July 8: The heightening food crisis caused by a Naga student organisation’s indefinite highway blockade today prompted the Manipur Human Rights Commission to ask the government for a detailed report on steps taken to restore supplies.
The rights commission’s directive coincided with a major development in neighbouring Nagaland. The Naga Students Federation (NSF), which had so far extended only moral support to the agitation by its Manipur counterpart, threatened to “teach the Okram Ibobi Singh government a lesson” after a convoy goods-laden trucks bound for Imphal wound its way through National Highway 39 last night.
Nagaland police escorted the 167 trucks till Mao Gate, on the inter-state border, from where the Manipur Rifles took over. Assam Rifles units provided “environmental security” to the vehicles. “The trucks passed through Kohima at midnight,” district superintendent of police Martin Pienyu confirmed.
An angry NSF said it would carry forward the agitation begun by the All Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) on June 19. The trigger for the blockade was the Manipur government’s decision to declare June 18 as “state integrity day” to commemorate the 2001 uprising against Delhi’s attempt to extend its ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M) beyond Nagaland.
The Naga community perceived the Ibobi government’s decision as a challenge to their goal of an integrated homeland consisting of all Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast.
“If the Manipur government thinks it can provide security and not listen to the ANSAM, which is speaking for the integration of the Nagas, it is mistaken,” NSF president Phushika Aomi said.
He said there was no untoward incident because the trucks passed through Senapati district in the wee hours.
Aomi said a meeting of students from all Naga-inhabited areas would be held in Dimapur soon to decide on a joint strategy. The entire stretch of the NH 39, which links Manipur with Nagaland, could become out of bounds for supply trucks if the NSF gets involved in the blockade.
The ANSAM leadership agreed to talk with the Manipur chief minister after a third invitation, but on condition that Ibobi would travel to Senapati for negotiations. The chief minister yesterday said the venue must be Imphal.
With the food crisis getting worse because of the impasse, an Imphal-based NGO sought the intervention ofthe state human rights commission.
The panel promptly asked the chief secretary to submit a report on or before July 23 on the steps already taken and those that the government was planning to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential commodities.
The 167 trucks that reached Imphal this morning were carrying fuel, LPG and other essential commodities.
The vehicles were stranded at Bokajan and other places along the NH 39 in Nagaland. It was the second convoy of stranded trucks to reach Imphal since the blockade began.