UNC intensifies blockade in Manipur

Imphal, Dec 11 (IANS) Intensifying its economic blockade following the creation on Thursday of seven new districts in Manipur, the United Naga Council (UNC) in Senapati district headquarters forced vehicles carrying paramilitary personnel, proceeding to escort trucks and oil tankers stranded on the highway, to return to Imphal on Saturday night.

Hundreds of loaded trucks and oil tankers remain stranded in Assam, Nagaland and near Manipur’s border along National Highways 2 and 53. The blockade of supplies has led to severe shortage of fuel, consumer items and life-saving drugs in the state.

The UNC had enforced the blockade on the highways on November 1 in protest against the Okram Ibobi Singh government’s move to upgrade Sadar Hills and Jiribam to full-fledged districts. Sadar Hills is one of the seven new districts, albeit under a new name — Kangpokpi district.

The Manipur government on Thursday announced formation of seven new districts — Jiribam, Kangpokpi, Tengoupal, Pharzol, Kakching, Noney and Kamjongin — in the state.

Meanwhile, UNC said that a meeting of the Nagas will be held on Monday to take stock of the situation arising out of the creation of the seven districts.

There have been low-key sit-in protests and demonstrations demanding the release of the two arrested UNC leaders, including Council President Gaidon Kamei.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has refused to budge saying that the law will take its own course.

Manipur High Court has also issued directives on three occasions, the most important being one directing the state government to deploy “adequate” security forces along the highways to ensure safe movement of vehicles.