Politics

‘Substantial Progress’ in Manipur Talks, Economic Blockade Likely to End Soon, Says Centre

The next round of tripartite talks between the Centre, the Manipur government and representatives of United Naga Council is scheduled for February 7.

Imphal-economic-blockade-PTI

The ongoing blockade has led to a spurt of violence in different parts of the state. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The February 3 talks among the officials of the Centre, the Manipur government and representatives of United Naga Council (UNC) in New Delhi made “substantial progress” in breaking the deadlock between the state government and the Naga civil society body. The next round would take place on February 7.

A late night press note released by the home ministry on Friday stated that an agreement had been made between the state government and the UNC to lift the over three-month-long economic blockade and it is likely to be signed shortly.

“There was substantial progress on the issue in the talks. A few points needed further discussions at their (UNC) organisational level,” it said.

“Next tripartite is expected on February 7, 2017,” it added.

Since November 1, UNC has continued to block two arterial highways – NH-2 and NH-37 – to protest the state government’s decision to create seven new districts in the state, alleging that such a move would bifurcate the ancestral land of the Nagas.

While it said the state government had earlier agreed to consult the Nagas before making any such move, the Okram Ibobi Singh government argued that the state administration has the right to create new districts for ease of administration and need not consult anyone.

The ongoing blockade has led to a spurt of violence in different parts of the state while leading to acute scarcity of essential commodities as hundreds of trucks have been stuck on both the highways.

blockade_pti

Representational image. Credit: PTI

The Centre’s move to dispatch companies of security forces to the state to clear the highways have not been successful with many women protesters squatting on the roads. There have also been incidents of firing, allegedly by the member of NSCN (Isak-Muivah).

As per the orders of the magistrate, the UNC leaders Gaidon Kamei and Sangkhel Stephen – who have been in jail since November 25 for spearheading the blockade – also took part in the talks held on Friday.

The meeting, which went on for over four hours, “is likely to have some problems in reaching an agreement as the leaders of the Kuki community have raised objection to the talks saying it should concern only lifting of the blockade and not creation of the news districts (mainly of SADAR Hills). If the latter is discussed, then Kuki Inpi, the main representative body of the community, should also be a part of the talks as being the majority community in that area it concerns them too,” said a source in Imphal.

On February 2, in an “open memorandum” addressed to the members of the “proposed tripartite talks”, Kuki Inpi said if the talks turn towards the territory of Manipur state, the three main communities – the Meites, the Kukis and the Nagas – “must be fully and equally represented.”