Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Strike-hit Manipur braces for Naga blockade

IMPHAL, December 26, 2012 PTI

Even as Manipur's four valley districts are in the grip of a general strike that has crippled the supply of essential items since December 21, the United Naga Council (UNC) has declared that it will begin a 72-hour blockade in the "Naga areas" from Wednesday midnight to demand an "alternative arrangement" for the Nagas.

It is feared that the blockade will affect the entire State since the Nagas have been living in the areas along the two national highways, which are the lifelines for the land-locked Manipur.

Several organisations called the strike, demanding that "Lt. Col." R.P. Livingstone of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) be arrested for having allegedly assaulted, molested and humiliated a film artist at a music programme in Chandel district on December 18. Two other artists, who intervened, were shot at though they escaped unscathed.

The UNC and other Naga groups have, however, said the law will take its course. Initially, a request for calling off the strike in view of Christmas was ignored. But it was called off till Wednesday midnight.

Elders of Lanthung village in Imphal have contradicted the Naga Council's claim of threat and harassment by non-tribals. The Council had said the villagers were threatened and told to return to the mountains.

But the elders said the charge was an attempt at driving a wedge between the communities that lived in harmony for long.

The organisations that spearhead the strike have made it clear that they will resume the agitation from Wednesday midnight. The State government's attempts to bring the situation under control — it has declared Livingstone a wanted man — have not yielded any result.

On Monday, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh spoke to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on the phone and told him that unless Livingstone was handed over to the government, the agitation could not be controlled.

On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Minister G. Gaikhangam told journalists that the State government was in touch with the Centre for arresting Livingstone. He hoped the Centre would hand over the accused for trial. Hence the Naga Council should desist from imposing a blockade on Manipur.

He was also happy that the organisations behind the strike suspended it to facilitate the celebration of Christmas, but wanted them to call it off in view of the hardships to the people. The Manipur Film Forum, the Manipur State Sumang Lila Council and many other organisations had imposed the general strike from December 21 midnight.

A sit-in was organised at Kwakeithel, near Imphal, to demand the immediate arrest of Livingstone.
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