Manipur highway blockade lifted after Kuki groups assured of settlement of political demands

The Kuki groups and BJP MLAs have been demanding separate administration since the violence erupted on May 3.  

July 03, 2023 08:33 pm | Updated July 04, 2023 07:50 am IST - New Delhi

Army personnel and Assam Rifles check a vehicle on the national highway in violence-hit Manipur. File

Army personnel and Assam Rifles check a vehicle on the national highway in violence-hit Manipur. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The 60-day blockade of the Dimapur-Imphal National Highway-2 was lifted on July 3 after a representative of the Union government assured Kuki groups that their political demands can only be addressed and settled by the government. The Kuki groups and BJP MLAs have been demanding separate administration since the violence erupted on May 3.  

The decision to lift the roadblocks was announced after a 19-member team comprising Kuki-Zo civil society organisations and representatives of the United People’s Front (UPF), and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), the umbrella group of 24 Kuki insurgent groups that are part of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the government, met a senior Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) functionary in Assam’s Kaziranga on June 30.

On Sunday, after the UPF and the KNO announced that they have decided to lift the blockade at Kangpokpi on NH-2 with immediate effect to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential commodities in the State, there was massive resistance from the local residents.

Also read: Supreme Court seeks detailed ground report even as Manipur Government insists situation is “improving, though slowly”

According to a message circulated among the community members on Monday, it was said that only the Union government can bring in a political settlement and it wanted to usher in “relative peace” in order to resume political talks to work out the demand for separate administration with the SoO groups.

The opening of NH-2 will be seen as a goodwill gesture by the Kuki groups, it said.

The Sunday’s statement signed by Aaron Kipgen of the UPF and Seilen Haokip of the KNO said that the decision was taken “notwithstanding the anger and anguish of the Kuki Zo people” and keeping in view Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s deep concern to restore peace and harmony in the State.

On Monday, Mr. Haokip said a message had been circulating on social media in his name with details of some confidential meetings of Kuki-Zo leaders with senior functionaries of the Government of India and Assam.

“It is true that our elected representatives and CSO leaders and SoO groups have been frequently meeting senior functionaries of Governments of India and Assam to convey our position on the prevailing security scenario in Manipur and trust deficit between the Kuki-Zo and Meitei communities.

Further, Government of India is well aware of our demands and has assured its full support in an expeditious and satisfactory resolution of the issue. Keeping in view the above assurances, senior officials urged the Kuki-Zo leaders to reconsider their blockade imposed on NH-02, so as to restore peace and normalcy,” Mr. Haokip said.

He said although there was general consensus on lifting the blockade amongst the Kuki-Zo leaders, the CSOs were reluctant to lift the blockade. “Therefore, the responsibility fell on SoO groups who have been constantly struggling for rights of our community. The lifting of blockade was done with the objective of ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential commodities to all parts of the State and alleviating the plight of people in general,” he said.

The highway from Dimapur in Nagaland is key to supply of essentials to the valley areas in Manipur, where the Meitei community lives. The State has been affected by ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities since May 3 and at least 138 people have been killed so far.

On Monday, the blockade was lifted but no civilian vehicle or trucks passed, according to Satminthang, a Kuki leader in the Sadar hills. He said the vehicles of security forces were allowed to pass through even during the blockade. Home Minister Amit Shah had also appealed to the people of Manipur on June 4 to lift the blockade at the Imphal-Dimapur national highway.

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