The Home Affairs Ministry has sought the Election Commission’s intervention to resolve the economic crisis in poll-bound Manipur caused by the Naga blockade. “While enough Central forces have been put at the disposal of the state government to have the highway cleared, it has been rather reluctant to utilise them,” a ministry official told The Times of India. “Among the reasons cited by them is that since women are squatting on the highway to enforce the blockade, it cannot risk the use of force.”
The three-month long economic blockade has disrupted the transport of essential items to Manipur through National Highways 2 and 37, and has affected everyday life. It was imposed by the United Naga Council on November 1, 2016, to protest against the government’s decision to upgrade Sadar Hills and Jiribam areas to create seven full-fledged districts.
The ministry wants the Election Commisison to ensure that the Okram Ibobi Singh government makes use of the Central forces deployed in Manipur to keep a check on the Naga rebels and end the blockade ahead of elections. “If NH-2 is blocked, how will candidates conduct their campaign?” the official said. “Also, how will polling personnel and poll material be transported?...An assessment says that polls in most hill districts cannot be held if the current situation continues.”
The Home Ministry will hold talks on February 5 with both the Manipur government and representatives of the Naga Council, which functions under the patronage of National Socialist Council of Nagaland. No state government representative turned up at the last such attempt by the Centre to end the logjam, which was on November 15, The Indian Express reported.
On December 12, the Home Ministry had said in a statement that no one would be allowed to take the law in to their own hands. About a month later, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had dismissed a ministry report that had said that the law-and-order situation in his state was “not conducive” to conduct Assembly elections.
Polls for the state’s 69 Assembly seats will be held in two phases on March 4 and March 8.