National highway blocked as bandh called by tribal body in Nagaland-Manipur border area enters seventh day

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National highway blocked as bandh called by tribal body in Nagaland-Manipur border area enters seventh day


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Vehicular movement on National Highway 29, along the Manipur-Nagaland border, remained suspended as an indefinite bandh called by a Naga tribal outfit over a boundary dispute entered its seventh day Sunday.

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On March 21, the Southern Angami Public Organization (SAPO), an outfit representing the Angami Naga tribe residing in areas bordering Manipur, had called for a 72-hour-bandh over “developmental activities” and “deployment of armed personnel” at what it referred to as the “disputed” Kezoltsa area by the Manipur government.

Kezoltsa is a forested area located near the Dzukou Valley, bordering Nagaland and Manipur. The valley has traditionally been a bone of contention between the Mao Nagas of Senapati (Manipur) and the Southern Angami Nagas of Kohima (Nagaland). The latter claims that Kezoltsa, located in Manipur’s Senapati district, is part of the Angami tribal ancestral land, and was “unfairly” made a part of Manipur by the British in the colonial era.

On March 24, after “getting no response” from the Manipur government, the SAPO said that the 72-hour bandh would become an indefinite bandh.

Kezoltsa falls on the NH-29, which connects Nagaland to Manipur. The entry and exit of all Manipur-bound private or public passengers, goods carrier vehicles as well as commuters has been restricted since.

A district official from Senapati said the blockade could potentially disrupt supply routes to Manipur. “The blockade has caused some inconvenience to travelers from Manipur, but the situation is not yet known as no supply chain has been affected. However, if the issue is not resolved, it has the potential to turn into a big economic blockade, ”said the official, adding:“ This road is known as the lifeline of Manipur… essential supplies are transported through it. ”

SAPO president Kevipodi Sophie told The Indian Express that the organization would not call off the bandh till the Manipur government removes the security personnel from the disputed area. “As Nagas, we adhere to our traditional boundaries – these political boundaries do not supersede our traditional ones. We are only claiming what belongs to us, ”he said.

The SAPO also claimed that they had taken several steps requesting the Manipur government to remove the security personnel, citing the 2017 “Arbitration Undertaking” signed by the Tenyimi People’s Organization (TPO), the apex body of the Tenyimi tribes in Nagaland and Manipur, to resolve the dispute in the customary way. “Despite these combinations, there has been no response from the Manipur government and that is why we were compelled to take this step,” he said.

A Mao community leader from Senapati termed the demand made by the SAPO as “ridiculous”, saying Kezoltsa was “inside Manipur.” “Traditionally Kezoltsa is known as Koziirii amongst the Mao community… .the security outpost is situated just at the foothill of Mount Iso, the highest peak in Manipur,” he said. The leader claimed that the Mao community had documentary records and oral accounts when it came to the boundary of Dzukou Valley.

Meanwhile, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who recently was sworn into office for a second term, Saturday told the state Assembly that the matter would be resolved at the state level, and that the government has already sent an official letter to the chief secretary. of Nagaland.

“The claim that the entire Dzukou Valley belongs to Nagaland is made by Southern Angami Public Organization, not by the Nagaland state,” Biren said, adding that if the need arose, the Central government would be apprised to play the part of mediator in resolving the issue.

Singh said the IRB outpost set up at Kezoltsa area was for “precautionary measures” to avoid unwanted incidents for local tourists (from Manipur). The chief minister also assured that the state government would take necessary steps to help people stranded along the NH-29.

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