The economic blockade of the NH-2, imposed by the Union Naga Council (UNC), has already been in place for two months and has caused locals to rise up in violent protests. Crowds of people protesting the blockade have reportedly vandalized and burned cars and passenger buses; according to various reports, up to 40 vehicles have been burned.
On December 15, four policemen died when they were ambushed as they headed to a ceremony to inaugurate the newly created district of Tengnoupal, which was carved out from the existing Naga-dominated district of Chandel.
A curfew was imposed on the Eastern Imphal district following the events.
The highways serve as lifelines for landlocked Manipur. The blockade of highway 37 has already been lifted.
"Our top priority is now to reopen National Highway-2 connecting Manipur [to Nagaland]. While the other highway [NH-37] is reopened, we want to reopen the NH-2 too, as early as possible," a senior Home Ministry official said.
The central government has blamed Manipur authorities for their inability to resolve the blockade dispute and have have made clear that state authorities will not escape responsibility for the crisis.
"It must end as soon as possible as law and order is the responsibility of the state government. Nobody will be allowed to take political advantage out of a humanitarian crisis where common people are suffering," said Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju.
The seven new districts have been formed by dissecting seven existing ones, mostly the the state's so-called "hill" districts, which are large but sparsely populated. Four out of five "hill" districts are mostly populated by members of the Naga tribe.
While state authorities claim the new divisions were made as both a response to longstanding demands of local people and for reasons of administrative efficiency, some sources in the Manipur Congress believe Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is merely trying to divide voting districts to win the upcoming elections to keep the position that he has held despite opposition since 2002.