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Kuki group defers blockade for 2 days
- Committee responds to public appeal

Imphal, Nov. 14: The Kuki State Demand Committee has deferred for two days its indefinite blockade along the national and state highways, responding to appeals from the public in view of the Ningol Chakkouba festival tomorrow.

The committee had earlier planned to begin the blockade from 5pm tomorrow.

“We have deferred the mass movement because of the Ningol Chakkouba festival on the request of different civil organisations. The blockade will now be imposed on all national and state highways passing through Kuki-inhabited areas from 5pm on November 17,” the general secretary of the committee, Benjamin Mate, said at a news conference at the district headquarters of Churachandpur today.

Ningol Chakkouba is one of the biggest festivals of Manipur, when married women come to their parents’ home. Though it is a daylong affair, some families observe the festival on the following day or another day, if they are not able to do it for some reason.

Though the blockade was deferred, the committee began its campaign today to mobilise support for their Kuki state demand by organising a public meeting in the border town of Moreh.

The announcement of the postponement of the blockade came a day after deputy chief minister Gaikhangam said any demand to break up Manipur would not be accepted, during a function held here yesterday.

Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, had made the statement while reacting to the demand for a separate Kuki state and an alternative administrative arrangement for Nagas living in the state by the United Naga Council.

Reacting to the deputy chief minister’s statement, Mate said the demand for a Kuki state under the Constitution was not illegal.

However, the United Peoples Front, an umbrella body of Kuki militant groups, which has a suspension of operation agreement with the Centre and the state government, has opposed the blockade and said it was untimely.

The Kuki community, with a population of five lakh, has been demanding a separate state for themselves comprising Churachandpur district, Chandel district and parts of Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Senapati districts and some areas, from where 350 Kuki villagers were uprooted allegedly by the NSCN (I-M) in the 1990s. Mate said the government had not resettled the displaced Kukis.

Asked about the conflicting claims over the territory by Naga citizens’ groups and the committee, Mate said the Kukis might talk to the Nagas when the time was right. “For the time being it is premature to say whether we will talk or not,” he said.

On the other hand, the Naga council had asked people of their community not to take part in the Sangai festival, a 10-day tourism festival to be organised by the Manipur government from November 21, as part of its campaign for an alternative arrangement for the community.