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Talks hope with Kuki groups

Imphal, Nov. 19: Manipur deputy chief minister Gaikhangam today said the Centre would soon begin talks with Kuki militant groups who have signed the suspension of operations agreement.

He also said the state government had invited the Kuki State Demand Committee for discussions tomorrow. The committee has imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the national and state highways in Manipur since Saturday to press for a Kuki state and dialogue with the Kuki militant groups.

Gaikhangam, who returned here yesterday from New Delhi after meeting Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, told reporters that senior officials of the ministry would arrive here after the winter session of Parliament to chalk out the modalities of talks with Kuki militant groups.

He said he had told central officials that the Kuki groups were disappointed as no progress had been made in the peace process in the past seven years. “I urged the Union home minister to start the dialogue. I am confident the talks will start soon,” he said.

Twenty Kuki militant groups, under two umbrella organisations of United Peoples Front and Kuki National Organisation, had signed the agreement in August 2005. The groups, which have been fighting for a separate Kuki state and are now living in designated camps, have been demanding initiation of talks.

Gaikhangam hoped that since the Centre has agreed to start negotiations with the militant groups, the committee would “respond positively and lift the blockade in the larger interest of the people”.

The blockade has completely dislocated supply of essential commodities in the state. More than a hundred loaded trucks and buses bound for Imphal are stranded at Jiribam town in Imphal East district and Senapati district. Transport services between Imphal and the five hill districts have also been hit.

Though the blockade entered only the third day today, some petrol pumps shut down saying they had run out of stock. Gaikhangam said he would look into this. He also said arrangements had been made to bring the stranded vehicles to Imphal. “There is no reason to worry about scarcity of fuel and other essential items. The state has a government which will do everything to ensure its supply,” he said.


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