130-Day Manipur Blockade Ends Ahead Of Chief Minister Biren Singh's Big Test

Story Highlights
  • The blockade in Manipur crippled supply lines for over 130 days
  • Naga groups had called for the blockade after new districts were created
  • Fulfilled PM Modi's promise says new Chief Minister Biren Singh
Imphal: An economic blockade in Manipur led by the United Naga Council, which had crippled the state's supply lines for over 130 days, has been lifted - a day ahead of Chief Minister Biren Singh's crucial floor test to prove his majority in the Manipur assembly today.

"We have fulfilled the promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by convincing the UNC to lift the blockade. This is a good beginning of good governance," Mr Singh told NDTV.

The decision was announced after Naga leaders met representatives of the centre and the state government today. PM Modi had vowed to remove the blockade if BJP was elected to power in a state ruled by the Congress for 15 years under Okram Ibobi Singh.

A joint statement released after the meeting stated that there would be "unconditional release of the arrested UNC leaders and all cases related to the economic blockade against the Naga tribe leaders and student leaders will be closed".  It also said that the next round of talks will be held within a month.

Governor Najma Heptulla said the first step of the newly formed government led by the BJP "will usher in an era of peace and prosperity" in the north-eastern state.

The Naga groups had called for a blockade on November 1 last year after the erstwhile Congress government of Chief Minister Ibobi Singh carved out seven new districts in the state, especially in the Naga dominated areas. The Naga leadership had called it an attack on its tribal lands and cultural integrity protected under the constitution.

The protesters had cut off the two main highways - NH2 and NH 37 - depriving the state of essential commodities. Long queues at fuel stations had become a common sight in the state capital of Imphal where the price of LPG cylinders shot up to Rs 2,000 each in the black market. Paramilitary forces were also mobilised in the state after incidents of violence.

Multiple rounds of talks in Imphal and Delhi were inconclusive. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju had alleged that the blockade was the "handiwork" of the state's then Chief Minister.

The BJP had won 21 seats in the 60-member assembly in the recently concluded elections and had moved in swiftly to form the government with the support of regional parties. The BJP claims it has the support of the National People's Party and the Naga People's Front, each of which has got four legislators. The NPP has been allotted two ministerial berths, the Naga People's Front, three.

The Congress, which has won the most seats, 28, could not gather the support of three more legislators to make the 31-seat majority mark.
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