| Gwaltabi residents block Imphal-Ukhrul road on Sunday. Picture by UB Photos |
Imphal, Nov. 18: Road communication between Imphal and five hill districts has been snapped because of an indefinite blockade imposed by the Kuki State Demand Committee in Manipur.
The blockade, which began at 5pm yesterday, also disrupted inter-state bus and transport services, completely choking the supply of daily essentials.
The committee called the blockade along Imphal-Ukhrul, Imphal-Chandel, Imphal-Churachandpur, Imphal-Tamenglong and Imphal-Ukhrul roads.
It is also demanding the start of a political dialogue between the Centre and Kuki militant groups, now staying in designated camps after signing of the suspension of operation (SoO) agreement in 2005.
Reports reaching here said Kukis turned out on the state and national highways at Kuki-inhabited areas to enforce the blockade. No vehicles, barring those of security forces, were allowed to pass.
This correspondent saw a group of women enforcing the blockade at Gwaltabi along Imphal-Ukhrul road today. A police team was stationed nearby but it did not intervene when the protesters turned back vehicles.
The blockade for a Kuki state came at a time when the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre are preparing to sign a peace deal. The Naga militant group is seeking integration of Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland.
Nagas’ apex body in Manipur, United Naga Council, is also seeking a separate administration for Nagas living in the state outside the purview of the Manipur government.
The UNC and Kuki State Demand Committee’s clamouring for their own administrative regions had triggered a flurry of activities in the state capital and New Delhi.
Manipur’s deputy chief minister Gaikhangam is currently in Delhi consulting Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and home ministry officials to deal with the Kuki and Naga issues. Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh is away on a foreign tour.
Official sources here said the home ministry officials assured Gaikhangam of sending a ministry team to Imphal next month to chalk out modalities of talks with the Kuki militant groups, which are also demanding a Kuki state.
In a related development, senior citizens, retired government officials, politicians and social activities started consultation on how to resolve the differences between the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis.
Khaidem Mani, high court advocate, said Organisation for Solidarity and Unity of the Northeast India was formed yesterday with the objective of bringing communal harmony, social integration, solidarity and unity among all ethnic groups of Manipur.
High court lawyer Th. Manihar has been appointed the convener of the organisation. Former chief minister Radhabinod Koijam has welcomed the move.
Though the Kuki blockade began only last evening, people started resorting to panic buying of essential items, particularly petrol and diesel. Long queues of vehicles and two-wheelers were seen at all the petrol pumps in Imphal.
This is despite the announcement by consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister M. Okendra Singh that there was no reason to panic as the state had enough stock of fuel and other daily essentials.