July 11: Rebuffed by the Naga student organisation behind the indefinite highway blockade, beleaguered Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has turned to Delhi for help.
As the blockade on the two national highways entered the 22nd day, Ibobi said his government was still trying to bring the All Naga Students Association of Manipur to the negotiation table. “We are trying to hold talks with the agitating students and I have also requested the Centre to help us reach an amicable solution,” he told the media at the Assembly.
The Naga student leadership had agreed to hold talks with Ibobi, but hardened its stand after security personnel escorted stranded goods-laden trucks to Imphal and a protester was injured in firing by India Reserve Battalion personnel at Senapati on Friday. Naga activists set over 20 government offices ablaze after that incident.
The student association began the blockade after the government declared the anniversary of the 2001 June uprising as “state integrity day”.
The Nagas of Manipur perceive the government’s move to officially commemorate the uprising ' it was against Delhi’s abortive attempt to extend its ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M) beyond Nagaland ' as a challenge to their goal of integrating all Naga-inhabited areas of the region.
The Ibobi government yesterday wrote to the Union home ministry, seeking its help in ending the crisis. Though the situation in the hill districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong improved, concern remained over the shortage of commodities and disruption of public transport services.
Last night, security personnel escorted over 30 stranded buses to the state capital. Blockade activists had stoned the buses at Tadubi in Senapati district.
A three-day bandh called by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee compounded the crisis. The national highway passes through the Sadar Hills and the bandh will end only on Wednesday.
In another development, several shops in the state capital temporarily downed shutters after a group of students went about inspecting stocks of essential commodities. The police said a shopkeeper assaulted a student.
The government made arrangements to distribute petrol and diesel at regulated prices in select fuel outlets. Sources said petrol was being sold at Rs 55 a litre in the black market.
In New Delhi, Lok Sabha member Mani Charenamei sought central intervention to protect the interests of the state’s Naga community.
Charenamei, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said he had requested the UPA government to make “alternative arrangements for the Naga areas as it has become practically impossible to live under the government of Manipur, which has turned communal”.
Accusing the Ibobi government of sending security forces to quell “peaceful protests” in the hill districts, the MP said the situation would otherwise not have turned ugly.
In a show of solidarity with Nagas in Manipur, influential organisations of Nagaland, including the Naga Hoho and the Naga Students Federation, today launched a “non-cooperation movement” against the Ibobi government. Hoho general secretary Neingulo Krome said the movement would be peaceful “unless the Manipur government provokes us”.
Manipur governor Shivinder Singh Sidhu is scheduled to meet Union home minister Shivraj Patil tomorrow to discuss the situation. Union home secretary V.K. Duggal has already sought a report on the developments from chief secretary Jarnail Singh.