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Economic Blockade Choked Manipur, Athletes Brought Smiles

IMPHAL, Dec 20: Manipur starved for essential commodities due to the two-month long economic blockade by students who relented only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in but the state cheered when its athletes brought laurels to the country in the Commonwealth and Asian Games this year.

The blockade was a fall-out of the dispute over contiguous Naga-dominated areas in Manipur, which Naga groups stake claim to. But the standoff that started over local polls snowballed into a full-blown crisis when the Okram Ibobi Singh government denied permission to NSCN-IM leader Thuingaleng Muivah to enter the state.

Muivah wanted to visit his ancestral home in Ukhrul but the government feared that it would ignite passions. The standoff eventually led to the death of two of his supporters in police firing and Muivah ultimately cancelling his trip.

Both the people of the hills and plains suffered when hill-based United Naga Council (UNC), a social organization, called the 61-day economic blockade on two national highways — Imphal-Dimapur-Guwahati (NH 39) and Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (NH53) from April 12.

They launched the blockade from April 12 when the state government announced holding of elections to autonomous district councils in the hill districts. Due to the blockade there was no transport of essential items including food and petroleum products.

Petrol sold in the black market at Rs 120 per liter, onion at Rs 28 and potato at Rs 25 during the blockade.

The students agreed to suspend the blockade after they were persuaded by the Prime Minister who met some of their leaders in the national capital.

The home ministry had also said that central forces would be sent if the students did not relent.

The state witnessed unabated kidnappings and killings and during the latter part of the year Union Home Minister P Chidambaram made a visit to the state and appealed to all militant groups to come forward for peace talks.

The number of insurgency-related killings stood at 78 with non-Manipuri laborers being constantly targeted. Some social organizations demanded introduction of inner line permit system in force in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, in the state as the number of migrant laborers was allegedly becoming more than the hill population.

Over 25 militant outfits are operating in Manipur

The performance of sportspersons was the silver lining for the state. The efforts of Sandhyarani Wangkhem (silver, Wushu), Bimoljit Singh Mayanglambam (bronze, Wushu), Mary Kom (bronze, boxing) and Suranjoy Singh (bronze, boxing) at the Asian Games and the performance of its boxers and lifters at the Commonwealth Games drew accolades from all.

*Reported by Tarapot Phanjoubam

(Courtesy: Press Trust Of India)

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