India seems obsessed with boxer Mary Kom’s biopic. The Priyanka Chopra-starrer has raked in Rs 30 crore ($5 million) in its opening weekend, complete with copious press coverage of the film.
But Kom’s home state of Manipur is facing an indefinite blockade, with food, drugs and fuel running thin in the small northeastern province of 2.7 million people that borders Myanmar.
Kolkata’s Telegraph newspaper yesterday reported that the state government had “50 days’ worth of rice stocks and 35 days’ of wheat stocks” left, with food and fuel prices already beginning to spiral. Two main highways leading into the state have been shut down, and Manipur has been effectively cut off from the rest of the country since September 4.
The blockade was enforced by United Naga Council (UNC), which represents Naga tribes in the region, after local police allegedly shot two protestors in Manipur’s Ukhrul district, 85 km away from the state capital Imphal, on August 30. The UNC has halted traffic on all the national and state highways running through Naga-majority areas and demanded President’s Rule in the state.
Within hours of the blockade last week, vegetables and pulses were up by Rs 5 to Rs 8 in the retail market. Typically, such disruptions also impact medical supplies, including drugs and oxygen cylinders, and fuel including LPG cylinders, diesel and petrol, which are imported into the state.
Not that Manipur is a stranger to such disturbances. In 2011, for instance, the state suffered through a four-month long economic blockade. Consequently, petrol prices more than doubled to Rs 140 per litre, a single LPG cylinder cost about four times the regular price at Rs 2,000 and a kilogram of rice went for more than thrice its usual price at over Rs 70.
For decades now, Manipur has been wracked by violent insurgencies, with many groups fighting for divergent causes, sometimes leading to internecine conflicts. In 2013 alone, there were 76 bomb blasts recorded in the state and at least nine terrorist groups remain active in the region. These insurgent groups are also the reason why the champion boxer’s biopic won’t be screened in the state.
Ironically, it is Mary Kom’s spectacular rise from such circumstances that has captivated the country. But the worsening crisis in her remote home state is going mostly unnoticed.