The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indefinite blockade of Naga routes

Imphal, Sept. 7: The United Committee, Manipur (UCM) has called an indefinite blockade of all routes leading to Nagaland from Manipur. The blockade is in protest against the looting of passengers and the alleged rape of a Tangkhul Naga girl and the molestation of another on Thursday at Piphema near Kohima. The blockade includes Manipur’s main lifeline, National Highway 39 (Imphal-Dimapur road).

Public protests are also being witnessed in Imphal since yesterday. Transporters and various students’ organisations have called a 24-hour National Highway 39 bandh from midnight tonight in protest against Thursday’s incident.

Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh late last night urged Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to issue strict directives to Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir to track down and arrest the culprits. “This is a most uncivilised act and a crime against women,” Ibobi Singh said at a news conference here today.

Ibobi Singh despatched a police team led by deputy inspector-general of police Dhruva Mishra this morning to co-ordinate with Nagaland police in the investigation. He is also preparing to despatch a ministerial delegation to Kohima soon.

The UCM said it could no longer tolerate the hardships faced by Manipuri passengers inside the territory of neighbouring Nagaland. “This is not the first incident. We have seen many such cases earlier. We now want to solve the problem once and for all,” said UCM president Sapamcha Jadumani today. He said the blockade would come into force with immediate effect and no one would be allowed to travel via Nagaland from here. He offered National Highway 53 (Imphal-Silchar road) as the alternative route.

The UCM president demanded that the state government should take all steps to ensure smooth passage of vehicles on the Imphal-Silchar highway. “The UCM is ready to give all help to the government for the development of the Imphal-Silchar highway,” he said.

Manipur principal secretary, for home D.S. Poonia has written to Nagaland chief secretary R.S. Pandey, saying the two girls from Ukhrul district, who were travelling in an Imphal-bound bus from Guwahati, had been “molested” near Kohima by armed thugs. He said three Imphal-bound buses and two trucks were also looted, including Rs 77,000 in cash.

Poonia urged the Nagaland chief secretary to book the culprits and ensure payment of compensation to the passengers.

Two Naga women’s organisations — the Naga women’s union, Manipur, and the Tangkhul Shanao Long (Tangkhul Women’s Union) — have however claimed that the two Naga girls were only molested and not raped. The organisations strongly condemned the incident saying it was an attempt to derail the ongoing Naga peace process.

Nagaland minister Franscis Ngajokpa, who was entrusted by the chief minister to look into the matter, said the two girls have so far only admitted they were molested but not raped.

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