Naga demand: Manipur stares at blockade
Manipur seems to be heading for another economic blockade. And this time it is the Naga movement for autonomy that is threatening to derail normalcy. Last month, the United Naga Council called for a 48-hour bandh and while shops and offices remained open in the valley areas, the shutdown was complete in the Naga dominated hill districts. The UNC said that if their demands are not fulfilled, they will resort to sterner measures and have not ruled out a complete economic blockade.
Last year, an economic blockade was organised by Kuki groups demanding a separate Sadar Hills District. The UNC had opposed the move. While the state government had in principle agreed to the Kuki demand, it had also assured the Nagas that no final decision would be taken without consulting all the tribes.
President of UNC Adani Mao said the Naga groups in Manipur have been demanding an alternate arrangement since 2010 when they made their first representation to the Centre. "At that point P Chidambaram had told us that while our demands may be legitimate these need to be discussed and had suggested a dialogue instead of any coercive measures. We entered into a tripartite agreement with the Centre and the state government. But due to the delaying tactics of the state government we have had no dialogue since December 2011. We have waited enough and are forced to start agitation," said Mao.
The UNC is not seeking a separate state. Instead, it is demanding an arrangement wherein the governance and financial allocation regarding the Naga dominated districts will be handled by the Nagas. "The Manipur government is communal. Ninety per cent of the state funds are spent on the four valley districts while only 10 per cent is used for development in the hill districts. Our land and forests are threatened with the Manipur government constantly trying to acquire these. We want that the law followed in our districts should be in accordance with our tribal culture and there should be no interference on the part of the state," said Mao, pointing out that over the next two months the UNC will observe a daily curfew blocking all traffic through the Naga districts. "If this does not work in getting the state government on board then we will think of a complete blockade," he said.
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