Lift the blockade

Lift the blockade

If the Centre fails to take stern action immediately to prevent the United Naga Council (UNC) from imposing its 72-hour blockade on Manipur, the situation in the fragile Northeast will deteriorate quickly.

Past blockades imposed by Naga groups on Manipur have extended for months and if the government fails to act immediately to lift the blockade, history will repeat itself. Neither the Naga groups behind the blockade nor the Manipuris who attacked Nagas in Manipur have acted responsibly.

Naga groups cannot be allowed to continue with their bullying of the Manipuri people, just as Manipuri organisations cannot punish Naga people for the crime of a single militant of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland –Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM).

The militant molested a film actress and while he must be arrested immediately, the response of some Manipuri groups -- they targeted Nagas living in Manipur – to that incident is unfair and unwarranted. Similarly, the collective punishment being imposed on Manipuris by Naga groups is untenable.

They cannot take the law into their hands. They are indulging in crass vigilantism by imposing strikes and blockades to teach each other a lesson.

Blocking roads, preventing essential commoditities from entering Manipur is a tactic that Naga groups have repeatedly used to impose pressure on Manipur to cede to their demands on a range of issues, whether it is to hand over ‘Naga areas’ in Manipur to make ‘Nagalim’ a reality, allow NSCN-IM leaders to enter their villages in Manipur or as punishment for attacks on Nagas.

Previous blockades have created severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines, causing immense hardship to ordinary people.

Economic blockades are acts of violence and the government must act to prevent them before they gather momentum. In the past, the Centre has twiddled its thumbs for weeks on end, refusing to act against the Naga groups imposing the blockade for fear that any action against them will jeopardise the ceasefire with the Naga insurgents.

In the process, it looked the other way while the Naga groups bully and blockade the Manipuris. This mistake must not be repeated. The Centre must act now.

A long-term strategy involving building roads linking Manipur to the rest of the country is required. At present there are just two such roads and these run through Nagaland. The Centre must address Manipur’s poor connectivity to the rest of India.

This is the most sustainable way to render the Nagas’ blockades ineffective.        

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