GUWAHATI: Ethnic clashes are feared in Manipur in the wake of an indefinite “economic blockade” enforced by a Naga organisation and a “counter blockade” by Meitei (Manipuri) groups even as the state’s Congress government has started using force to bring stranded vehicles from Nagaland.
Manipur’s apex Naga organisation, United Naga Council (UNC), enforced a blockade on national highways 2 and 53 since November 1 protesting the Okram Ibobi Singh government’s move to upgrade Sadar Hills and Jiribam to full-fledged districts, allegedly without consulting the Nagas. Kukis (tribesmen) are in a large majority in both places.
While the UNC is attacking goods-laden vehicles headed to Meitei-majority Imphal valley, the Meitei groups are preventing vehicles from moving to the hills where the Nagas live. The blockades have caused an acute shortage of essential items in both the valley and the hills.
Fearing a communal flare-up, opposition BJP on Friday slammed the Ibobi government
and asked it to not play with fire.
“The Congress knows it well that it won’t get the votes of the Nagas in next year’s polls. So, the party is trying to appease the Kukis through its move to create the two districts,” BJP spokesman and former minister, N Biren, told Express.
“The Nagas and the Meiteis have been sharply divided in the wake of the blockades and a communal clash looks imminent.The chief minister is creating division among people to gain some political mileage in the polls,” Biren alleged.
On Friday, dozens of the goods-laden vehicles were brought to Imphal valley from Nagaland under heavy security arrangements. The trucks had stopped plying on the road following attack by the blockade supporters. Very few vehicles are plying on the other highway, which enters the state from Assam and the condition of which is deplorable, under security cover. The two highways are Manipur’s lifelines.
A division bench of Manipur High Court, headed by chief justice Rakesh Ranjan Prasad, had on Thursday ordered the state government to take measures to ensure the free movement of the goods-laden trucks to give relief to people.
Meanwhile, UNC general secretary, Milan Shimray, told Express on Friday that the UNC
leaders had gone into hiding as they were being “hunted” by police.