When the United Naga Council announced that it would begin an economic blockade of Manipur from September 4, many people in the state had anxious flashbacks of the hardships they faced in 2011. That year, Manipur faced a four-month economic blockade that sent the blackmarket into overdrive. The price of petrol shot up to Rs 140 a litre, while it cost Rs 2,000 to purchase a gas cylinder.

The siege went into effect when Kukis from a group called the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee halted traffic on National Highways 39 and 53 leading into Manipur to agitate for a Kuki-majority district. However, the territory they were demanding was part of a district that is claimed by the Naga people, who retaliated with a blockade of their own.

The current blockade, now in its sixth day, is being enforced by the United Naga Council after two of its members were killed during a protest to demand the lifting of orders prohibiting five or more people from gathering in public. They have halted traffic on Manipur-bound highways running through Naga-majority areas.

Days before the block came into effect, Manipuris flooded into shops and petrol pumps to buy essential items in bulk. Petrol and diesel began to be rationed: they were being sold only during select hours, and the size of the buyer’s vehicle determined how much fuel she would get. Though civil society organisations urged traders not to raise prices, they shot through the roof.

As is to be expected, the poor suffer the worst during these blockades. They have to make do only with food grown in the state, and rack up debts as prices soar. People with chronic medical conditions also have a terrible time, as drugs and equipment such as oxygen cylinders become difficult to find.

Since passenger buses are not allowed to leave the state, travel plans must be rescheduled. Students find it difficult to rejoin colleges in other states, weddings in other parts of the country must be forgone. Those facing absolutely emergencies have to fly out ‒ though that is only an option for the affluent.

Even cooking a meal can be a problem. Since they can’t rely on LPF, families have been using induction cooktops. But these can be unreliable, because Manipur faces a shortage of electricity. Other families turn to firewood.

As it stands, the United Naga Council’s blockade could be lifted any time because the Manipur government on Sunday lifted prohibitory orders from Ukhrul. But this may not mean a reprieve for the state, because the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur is mulling another economic blockade over the issue of reservations in Manipur University.