Imphal: In what can be seen as an initiative to de-escalate the ongoing ethnic tension in violence-hit Manipur, the state government took a pivotal step for resuming Manipur State Transport’s (MST) inter-district bus services on the vital routes connecting Imphal to three tribal-dominated districts – Senapati, Kangpokpi, Churachandpur and Meitei-inhabited Bishnupur.
However, the initiative encountered roadblocks by the Kuki-Zo protesters, preventing the buses from reaching their intended destinations.
The impassable barriers led to the unfortunate turnaround of the buses, one at Churachandpur and the other at Kangpokpi.
The move by the government to reintroduce inter-district travel garnered widespread appreciation, particularly from non-tribal and neutral tribal natives who saw this initiative as a means of re-establishing crucial connections between the districts in turmoil.
Despite the disruptions, the need for such services was echoed by various factions within Manipur’s diverse community.
The Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU) and the Kuki Inpi Sadar Hills (KISH), based out of Kangpokpi, are the frontal bodies demanding ‘separate administration’ (equivalent to separate state) for the tribals following eruption of ethnic clashes between the Kuki-Zo and Meitei communities.
The CoTU and the KISH have expressed dissent over the government’s decision to restart bus services citing it as an attempt to project a semblance of normalcy in the strife-torn state.
In response, the two organisations initiated a district-wide shutdown, halting all vehicular movement through Kangpokpi, amplifying their plea for the withdrawal of the resumption of bus services.
Similarly, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) in Churachandpur announced the sealing of the border between Churachandpur and Bishnupur districts, invoking security concerns ahead of the upcoming Christmas celebrations.
Their claims of potential disruptions during the festive season prompted them to urge the locals to refrain from leaving the district from Saturday until January 5.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Manipur Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi highlighted that the decision to reinstate these services is aimed at alleviating the ongoing hardships faced by the populace amid the persisting turmoil.
Despite the setbacks, the government’s effort to restore these crucial inter-district connections has garnered recognition and gratitude from numerous local residents who await the eventual normalisation of the state’s social fabric.