Indefinite economic blockade launched by Nagar tribals in Manipur


Guwahati, India : India’s northeastern state Manipur faces crisis as indefinite economic blockade launched by Nagar tribal groups.

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Prices of a litre of petrol has soared to Rs 150, while most hospitals in India’s northeastern state of Manipur were running out of life saving drugs and oxygen, following an indefinite economic blockade launched by various Naga tribal bodies to protest against the state government’s decision to prevent separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah from visiting his birthplace.

“May be by Monday we would be forced to stop all routine operations with stocks of oxygen and other live saving drugs drying up,” Y. Mohen, superintendent of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), said.

RIMS is the only medical college and hospital in Manipur’s capital Imphal.

“Same is the case with other government and private hospitals with supplies of oxygen hit due to the blockade, besides stocks of life saving drugs fast disappearing from the shelves of chemists,” a Manipur health department official said.

All vehicles carrying essentials to Manipur were stopped at Dimapur in adjoining Nagaland since May 6 to protest the state government’s decision not to allow Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) separatist group, to visit his birthplace in Ukhrul district.

Landlocked Manipur depends on supplies from outside the region with trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials passing through Nagaland.

“A kilogram of rice was selling at Rs 60 to Rs 70, while items like baby food and other essentials were becoming scarce even if someone was willing to pay double the actual price,” said Bimala Devi, a housewife in Imphal.

Simmering tension continues in the bordering areas between Manipur and Nagaland after security forces Thursday killed three supporters of Muivah and injured 70 more in clashes with Naga protestors who wanted Muivah to travel to his birthplace.

The Manipur government had banned 75-year-old Muivah’s trip to his home village, saying it could stoke unrest.

Muivah has since deferred his visit to his birthplace in Ukhrul district, about 220 km from Mao.

A police spokesperson said several areas in Manipur’s Senapati district, dominated by Nagas, have blocked the highway by resorting to sit-in protests leading to disruption in road communication between Manipur and the rest of the country.

“Almost in every 200 metres you find big boulders and trees blocking the road and in some places trees were set on fire to prevent movement of troops,” an army commander said.

The NSCN-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) is operating a ceasefire with New Delhi since 1997 with the two sides holding close to 60 rounds of peace talks aimed at ending one of India’s longest running insurgencies.

The Manipur government maintains the ceasefire with the NSCN-IM does not extend beyond Nagaland and hence Muivah’s visit to Manipur was not acceptable.

The NSCN-IM had earlier demanded that all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast, including Manipur, be integrated by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas and create a Greater Nagaland.

The demand is strongly opposed by the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

The violent insurgency in Nagaland has claimed around 25,000 lives since the country’s independence in 1947.