Another economic blockade begins, people queue up for fuel

A file photo of Kuki women protesting for a separate district in September last year
A file photo of Kuki women protesting for a separate district in September last year

The indefinite economic blockade in Manipur called by the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC) came into effect on Saturday 17 November evening triggering a panic to stock up essential commodities. Meanwhile KSDC supporters blocked movement of people in Kuki inhabited areas and attacked vehicles plying along the major lifelines of National Highway (NH) 39 and 52. The locals have also expressed fear of artificial inflation even though stock of petrol and diesel in almost all the gas stations in the state has run out in just two days since the blockade started.

Once again the trouble torn state of Manipur will see a crisis with the indefinite economic blockade coming into effect. Last year, a 121-day long economic blockade, which was called to demand a separate Kuki state, had ravaged the state’s economy and caused acute shortage of commodities and price rise. Thangkham Kipgen, president of Kuki Inpi Saikul, says, “We have a unique history, culture and our own identity as the Kuki. It is necessary that we have our own state under the provision of the Indian Constitution to preserve and nurture our tradition and custom.”

Okram Robert, a sales officer from Imphal remarks, “It’s not even two days since the blockade started and surprisingly, the stock of petrol and diesel have run out. I think we are in for a hard time ahead mainly because of artificially induced scarcity and monopoly.”

The KSDC, however, remains adamant on continuing the embargo and restrictions on public movement, clearly stating that it will not back down until the Union government initiates a dialogue for the establishment of a Kuki State. While threatening with more agitations to enforce the demand of KSDC, Saikul has justified the demand of a separate Kuki state as the ultimate objective to preserve and unify the Kuki culture and tradition.

The demand for a Kuki state, however, has not seen unanimous support so far. It has come under opposition from within and outside the Kuki community. In an earlier statement, a joint Kuki militant front had claimed that the demand for a Kuki state does not reflect the common consensus of the entire Kuki people, and termed the KSDC as a small group of selfish people trying to force their own personal agenda on the rest.

Meanwhile, the KSDC has claimed that a separate Kuki state is a long due aspiration of the community. It may also be mentioned that some of the Naga civil bodies have also been demanding an alternative arrangement for all Nagas in Manipur outside the purview of the state government. The Naga unification under one administrative unit is likely to become the prime focus in the upcoming talks between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) and the Government of India.

RK Suresh is a freelancer based in Imphal