Ethnic activists lift state blockade in north-eastern India

New Delhi - Tribal activists in India decided Tuesday to lift their two-month blockade of the north-eastern state of Manipur shortly after the federal government dispatched troops to the area.

Ethnic Naga groups had blocked main roads into the state since April 11 to protest a government decision preventing separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah from visiting his birthplace in Manipur.

Muivah has been campaigning for the creation of a 'Greater Nagaland' state to include India's existing Nagaland state and areas of the neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh dominated by the Naga community.

'We are temporarily suspending the economic blockade from Tuesday evening following requests by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and top ministers whom we met in New Delhi,' Naga Students Federation president Musiikhoyo Yhobu said.

The blockade, led by the federation, caused severe shortages of food and medical supplies and soaring prices in Manipur. The landlocked state relies on supply routes through Nagaland.

Meanwhile, police officials told the IANS news agency that in view of the federation's decision, force would not be used but paramilitary fighters would be deployed to escort trucks into Manipur.

On Monday, Home Secretary GK Pillai said troops would break the blockade if necessary to ensure supplies reached Manipur.

The Naga leaders and the Indian government have held more than 60 rounds of talks over the past decade with no resolution.

Naga leaders have said the proposed state would maintain federal relations with India. But the other north-eastern states have objected to any claim of the new state on their territories.

The Naga rebellion dates back to 1947 when the region's tribal warriors refused to join independent India and moved into the jungles to wage a guerrilla war.

India responded with a military crackdown and the political solution of a separate Nagaland state, carved out of a once-larger Assam, but the proposal did not satisfy the rebels.

At least 25,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict.