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Siege lifted, but little relief for Manipur

Sushanta Talukdar

As Naga students in Manipur continue blockade

Guwahati: The Naga Students Federation (NSF) has temporarily suspended its blockade of the National Highway 39, the lifeline of Manipur, with effect from 6 p.m. on Tuesday. However, it failed to bring any respite for the State, as the All-Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM)-sponsored blockade of the highway continued for the 65th day.

Following the NSF decision, the Dimpaur-Mao Gate (the entry point of Manipur on the Manipur-Nagaland border) portion of the highway is now free for vehicular movement. However, from the Mao Gate point, the ANSAM enforced blockade on the highway inside Manipur continues.

The NH 39 takes off from the NH 37 at Numaligarh in Assam and connects Moreh, the border point on the India-Myanmar border in Manipur. Its total length is 436 km. Of this, 100 km is inside Assam, 115 km in Nagaland and the rest in Manipur.

The NSF, in a statement issued in Kohima on Monday night, said it decided to suspend the blockade following appeals by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, when its leaders called on them on Monday.

It, however, warned of resuming the agitation if the Manipur government failed to fulfil its demand in toto. In a memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, it had urged him to issue a directive to Manipur to withdraw its security forces from the Naga areas and to immediately revoke the arrest warrant issued against Naga leaders.

The NSF said it would extend all logical support to ANSAM and the United Naga Council (UNC) for any course of action “as the issue raised by them are paramount concern for the Nagas.”

ANSAM first started the blockade of NH 39 and NH 53 from April 11, to protest against the holding of Autonomous District Council polls. It alleged that the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Act, 2008, (Third Amendment) failed to protect the tribals' rights.

The NSF started its blockade from May 4 after a delegation of the student body from Nagaland was prevented from entering Manipur on May 3.

Both blockades were intensified after May 6, when two Naga students were killed at the Mao Gate during a protest against promulgation of prohibitory orders and deployment of the Manipur Commandos and Manipur Rifles to prevent National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah from entering Manipur to visit his birthplace Somdal in Ukhrul district.

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