Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and leaders of the Naga Students Federation (NSF) indicated on Thursday that the blockade imposed on Manipur by the NSF on May 3 would be lifted shortly,

But there is no word from the All-Naga Students' Association Manipur (ANSAM), which has blocked National Highways 39 and 53, the lifeline of Manipur, since April 11 in protest against the conduct of the elections to the Autonomous District Councils.

NSF leaders entered Manipur through the Mao gate on May 3 “to watch the situation” ahead of a proposed visit to Manipur by Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim. But they were turned away. Soon after their return to Nagaland, they announced the blockade.

Talking to a news channel, Mr. Pillai said the blockade might be lifted shortly. But it would have been better if the Manipur government allowed Mr. Muivah to visit his home village. He said the State government had feared that Mr. Muivah would sabotage the ADC elections.

Talking to journalists at Shillong a few days ago, Mr. Pillai wanted the blockade lifted. The limit of tolerance was crossed, he said, and the organisers would be pulled up.

A five-member delegation of the NSF is in New Delhi.

Reports said the NSF had written to Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi, hinting that the blockade might be relaxed “within a short period of time” in view of the appeals by several organisations. Nevertheless, the NSF said it still objected to the deployment of the State forces in what it regarded as the Naga areas and the promulgation of the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

However, much water has flowed under the bridge: the Manipur government declared a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the acting presidents of the ANSAM and the United Naga Council, both close allies of the NSF, following a directive from the High Court.

Furthermore, Nagaland has started suffering from a counter-blockade imposed by several organisations at Karbi Along, a district of Assam, after the NSF rejected appeals to lift the blockade on Manipur. The supporters of the counter- blockade damaged oil tankers and goods-laden trucks. Truckers now refuse to ply to Nagaland.

The police arrested the Manipur People's Party president Nimaichand Luwang and vice-president Sapam Dhananjoy, who have been on a fast unto death Since Monday demanding the lifting of the blockade. They were taken to hospital for nose-feeding after their conditioned worsened.

Talking to journalists, Manipur People's Party leaders said both the leaders would continue their protest in prison. They charged the government with failure to take any concrete step to clinch an agreement with the tribal bodies that imposed the blockade.