M A I N   N E W S

Centre, Nagas enter truce lane
n Protesters to lift blockade temporarily
n Decision after govt decides to use force
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 14
Finally, the 64-day-old blockade of the two crucial national highways leading to Manipur would be suspended tomorrow, but “temporarily”. An announcement in his regard was made by the Naga Student Federation in a release today evening but not before the Centre toughened its stance and decided to use force to end the blockade.

However, the NSF would resume its agitation if the Manipur government failed to fulfill its demands in toto, a statement by NSF vice president Sinhilo Thong and general secretary Wati Jamir said. It said NSF would extend "all logical support" to All Naga Students' Association (ANSAM) and United Naga Council (UNC) in the stir, it said.

The two organisations had launched the blockade on NH-39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH-53 (Imphal-Jiribam) since April 12 protesting elections to Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in Manipur hills and Manipur government's decision to ban entry of NSCN leader T Muivah to the state.

Prior to the decision, a team of students from Nagaland met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Capital. "We had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister and submitted our representation. He listened to us and assured us an early solution to the ongoing problem. He asked the young students of the state to create a peaceful atmosphere and resolve the issue," NSF adviser Achumbemo Kikon said.

Part of a five-member delegation led by NSF, the Naga leader said he was impressed by the PM's assurance and a meeting has been called by the different federations supporting the protest to form a consensus.

"All our senior leaders of different students unions are meeting today at Kohima.

They will be discussing the assurances given to us by the Prime Minister. After forming a consensus, we may think of temporarily lifting of ban,” he had said.

However, Kikon maintained the relaxation will strictly be on temporary basis, subject to acceptance of their conditions. Their demands included removal of commandos from the state, withdrawal of arrest warrants against NSF leaders and an amendment to the formula of electing the six autonomous district councils in the hills in Manipur. The Nagas, who inhabit the hills, contend that an amendment before the polls, a few months ago, took away the powers of the tribal people. Earlier in the day, the Union Home Ministry announced its decision to deploy about 2,000 paramilitary personnel to assist the Manipur government in clearing the blockade, which entered its 63rd on the national highways 39 and 53.

Union Home Secretary GK Pillai said the Chief Secretaries of Nagaland and Manipur will meet in Delhi on Wednesday to review the situation there. Originally, the blockade commenced to protest the elections to the autonomous hill district councils. But just before the government could tire them out, the protesters found a new issue when Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh stopped Naga rebel leader Thuigaleng Muivah from visiting his ancestral village at Ukhrul in northern Manipur. Both sides had stuck to their stand since.

The NH-39 runs through Nagaland and goes southeast to enter Manipur while the NH-53 connects Imphal, the Manipur capital, with Silchar in Assam, located 220 km away. It does not pass through Nagaland, however, the north-western part of Manipur is dominated by Naga tribes and they have blocked it to “to teach a lesson” to the dominant Meiti tribe of Imphal valley. The economic blockade pushed Manipur on the verge of a breakdown with stocks of all essentials commodities, including baby food and life saving drugs, almost drying up. Some supplies, though, were being maintained through a circuitous and semi-kutcha route, the NH 150, via Mizoram. (With PTI inputs)





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