Friday, August 26, 2011

Sadar Hills District, bandhs, talks and Naga memories

The possible creation of a new Sadar Hills District in Manipur's Senapati District has dominated news from the northeast this week.  Manipur's Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi, announced on Tuesday that a committee would be formed to consider the creation of the new district in response to a bandh, or blockade, enforced by the 'Sadar Hills District Demand Committee'.  The bandh has been in place on a number of national highways since 31 July.  The United Naga Council (UNC) has instituted a counter-bandh since 21 August.  Both bodies yesterday said they would exempt life-saving drugs from the blockades.  The Chief Minister yesterday assured constituents a solution would be expedited and that any decision would be based on 'administrative convenience'.

Bandhs are also the subject of debate among the Bodo community.  The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) this week backed the United Democratic People's Front's (UDPF) call for a 48-hour bandh on 26-27 August.  Meanwhile students in the "Bodo belt" this week reportedly decried the bandh culture prevalent in the northeast and requested that educational institutions be exempted.

In United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)-related news this week, the non-talks faction reportedly received an arms consignment from China, free of charge, and is storing the new cache in Burma.  A group of ex-ULFA militants said that the current peace talks are an insult to those who gave their life for Assam's sovereignty and that the pro-talks faction should immediately clarify its stance on sovereignty.

Meanwhile in Mizoram, a procession in favour of the resumption of peace talks between the Mizoram Government and the Hmar People's Convention - Democrats (HPC-D) was held yesterday.  The HPC-D is based in Manipur and seeks Hmar self-government in parts of Manipur, Mizoram and Assam. 

The August issue of the Himal Southasian magazine has two excellent Naga-related features.  In the first, Naga elders remember the time of the 'groupings' in the late 1950s.  The second is a photo feature on the capital of Nagaland, Kohima.

Finally, the Indian Government Home Ministry this week released a list of militant outfits, counting 79 in the northeast.

***This is the first in a new weekly digest format of Seven Sisters.  Feedback welcome!

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