Centre to hold talks to end Manipur crisis

Tripartite dialogue mooted with United Naga Council and State government over the ongoing highway blockade

January 31, 2017 12:38 am | Updated 12:38 am IST - New Delhi:

NAGA CRISIS:  Normal life in the State has been disrupted after an economic blockade was imposed by Naga groups. A policeman is seen near a  charred bus in Manipur.

NAGA CRISIS: Normal life in the State has been disrupted after an economic blockade was imposed by Naga groups. A policeman is seen near a charred bus in Manipur.

The Centre has decided to hold tripartite talks with the United Naga Council (UNC) and the Manipur government to end the ongoing blockade of two national highways in Manipur, which has disrupted normal life and led to a shortage of essential commodities in the State.

The economic blockade imposed by the UNC, an umbrella body of Naga groups under the patronage of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), against the Manipur government’s decision to carve out seven new districts, has continued for over four months now. The UNC sees the move as an attempt to truncate the concept of a greater Nagalim.

The Centre has been accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of the UNC, with which the Union government had signed a framework agreement in 2015 to resolve the decades-old Naga issue.

“We will soon send a notice for holding talks with the UNC and the Manipur government. Let’s see, if they respond to the notice. Last time, on 15 November, 2016, when such meeting was held, no representative of the Manipur government showed up,” said a senior government official. The official added that the meeting has been proposed to be held in Delhi on February 5.

Last week, the Centre pressed into service two C-17 Globemaster cargo aircrafts to airlift six fuel tankers to Imphal. An official said that 96 kilolitres of petrol was airlifted to ease oil shortage in the State.

State subject

The Union government even sought Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s opinion to end the economic blockade. After consultation, it was concluded that no law permitted the Centre to interfere in the matter, as law and order was a State subject. “We have been sending Central forces and are doing our bit. The State government has not been forthcoming to end the deadlock as the current situation would help them in the upcoming elections,” said the official.

Manipur is going to the polls on March 4 and 8 and due to the ongoing economic blockade, it has been kept in the most sensitive category, an official said, adding that elections were being held in two phases for the first time in the State.

Around 17,500 Central forces are deployed in Manipur currently and another 50,000 would reach in March after elections in the other four States are over.

The Centre has even kept choppers and aircraft on standby, in case forces need to be airlifted.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had earlier sent a tough message to Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh that if the State government failed in discharging its constitutional duties, the Centre “may have to explore other measures under the provisions of the Constitution of India to ensure that the difficulties of the people of Manipur are alleviated.”

Home Ministry’s worry

The Home Ministry had earlier written a letter to the Election Commission of India (ECI) regarding the “ongoing tension and grave law and order situation” and requested it to defer the elections in the State in the wake of shortage of security forces. The EC overruled the Ministry’s apprehensions and announced that polls will be held in the State in two phases on March 4 and 8.

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