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25 Dec 2016

Efforts on to end Manipur blockade

Khelen Thokchom, TT, Imphal, Dec. 24: Social workers and church leaders in Manipur continued efforts to hold talks with leaders of the United Naga Council (UNC) to end the economic blockade, as the state government resumed movement of trucks with security escorts along one of the two blocked supply routes.
Following suggestions from Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju yesterday, the Okram Ibobi Singh government last night sent 500 empty trucks along National Highway 37 (Imphal-Jiribam road) to fetch supplies.
The same security forces will escort to Imphal more than 600 loaded trucks and oil tankers stranded in Jiribam district, neighbouring Assam's Cachar district.
After reviewing the supply situation with chief minister Ibobi Singh and home minister Gaikhangam, Rijiju yesterday said the blockade must be lifted at any cost as it had created a humanitarian crisis in Manipur. He also said seven companies of central paramilitary forces were on their way to Imphal for deployment along the highways.
The indefinite economic blockade imposed by the UNC since November 1 against bifurcation of Naga-inhabited areas while creating new districts has cho#ked supply and created scarcity of essential commodities in Manipur.
Rijiju rushed here yesterday as the blockade fanned communal tension with valley inhabitants launching a counter blockade and torching vehicles bound for the Naga-inhabited areas.
Earlier, citizens' organisations and church leaders had come together to launch a goodwill mission for peaceful co-existence.
The mission, launched by more than 17 citizens' organisations and church bodies, met the chief minister on Thursday and apprised him of the concerns of the people in the state over the prevailing situation.
"A team of the goodwill mission is making attempts to hold talks with the leaders of the UNC. We are keeping in touch with the Naga organisation. However, there is no fixed date for it," Ningthouja Lancha, convener of the goodwill mission, told The Telegraph.
The goodwill team is also planning to meet UNC president Gaidon Kamei and information secretary Sangkhel Stephen, who have been in police custody since being arrested on November 25.
Despite Christmas and several appeals from public organisations, the UNC is not ready to lift the blockade. The hill inhabitants are Christians and a large population of Christians stay in the valley too.
Sources said executive members of the UNC are currently in New Delhi and the goodwill mission team will try to meet them after their return to Imphal.
Secretary of the goodwill mission, Asang Kasar, who is a church leader, appealed to every individual, local clubs, women organisations and other civil bodies to extend assistance in the mission's effort to prevent any untoward incident.
Office burnt: Unidentified persons, suspected to be blockade supporters, set on fire the district employment office located at Tamenglong town late last night. The office was completely gutted, police said.

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