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Manipur economic blockade on 93rd day

Imphal: The crippling economic blockades on two national highways in Manipur entered the 93rd day today, even as one of the sponsors called for a 48-hour bandh in five hill districts from midnight tonight to mount pressure on the government.

A spokesman of the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) said a 48-hour bandh has been called in Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur districts. It would be followed by an indefinite general strike and bandh in the Sadar Hills in Senapati district till the government agreed to its demand, he said.

The SHDDC has demanded conversion of Kuki-majority Sadar hills area in Naga-majority Senapati district into a full fledged revenue district. It has been blockading the Imphal-Dimapur-Guwahati (NH 39) and Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (NH 53) since August 1.

Opposing this, the United Naga Council, blockaded the two national highways since August 21.

The efforts to ferry in supplies from outside the state by security forces were being disturbed by volunteers picketting on the national highways, official sources said. This has resulted in suffering for a population of 27 lakh in the state which is spread over 22,327 square kilometres.

The cabinet has met seven times on the issue of Sadar Hills in the past two months, but could not take a decision fearing an ethnic clash between Nagas and Kukis, they said. Over 1000 people were killed in the early 1990s in Kuki-Naga clashes in hill districts because the Nagas wanted to drive out Kukis from Naga-settled areas, they added.

Prior to the blockades, over 300 trucks brought in essential supplies one or twice a week on the two national highways with security escort. The price of cooking gas which cost about Rs 400 has gone upto Rs 1650 per cylinder, petrol which costs Rs 50 per litre has gone upto Rs 120 or more in the black market. Prices of onions, potatoes, and other essentials have also shot up considerably.

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