United Naga Council, the apex body of the Nagas in Manipur has called a 48-hour general strike in the "Naga populated" areas of the state beginning from Thursday midnight.
Though the strike is for the Naga areas only, in practical terms it means that the entire state will be affected. The two highways, which are the lifelines of Manipur, pass through the mountains dominated by the Nagas. No bus, truck and private vehicle can ply on these highways during the strike. Besides, normal life is expected to be thrown out of gear in most parts of the hill districts.
The UNC said that the strike was called on to protest against the lack of positive response and sincerity by the Union government on its demand for the alternative arrangement.
By the term "alternative arrangement" the UNC means that the Nagas in Manipur want a separate arrangement beyond the control of the Manipur government since they no longer want to stay under the "communal Manipur government".
The council has taken umbrage at the reported statement of Shambhu Singh, the Joint Secretary (Home) in-charge of North East that the UNC should hammer out an agreement on the issue with the Manipur government.
In a statement, the UNC said that the demand for the alternative arrangement was made on August 31, 2012 and there have been six rounds of talks. Mr. Singh had participated in all the talks representing the Union government. Under the circumstances the UNC is not happy that he is now saying that the demand of the UNC is not clear.
It further said that it had never suggested tripartite talks. Instead, it had urged the Union government to prevail upon the Manipur government to make the alternative arrangement. On December 6, it had also announced that it would obstruct all national projects undertaken in the Naga areas. It was also announced that if there is no positive response within a week it would launch intensified agitations.
Official sources said that it is for the Union government to bring about an acceptable formula and that the state government cannot do anything in this regard. Armed paramilitary personnel have been lined up for escorting the trucks and passenger buses during the general strike to ensure that there is no interruption in the transportation of various goods to Manipur from other states. Besides, the government is taking up steps to ensure that the stranded passengers do not face problems in the mountains in the icy winter.