Monday, September 6, 2010

Violence Haunts Freight Truckers On Highway NH 39

Politics Means a Potentially Deadly Passage for Indian Cargo
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – MYANMAR – Highway NH 39, which links Assam with the Indo-Myanmar border is largely unknown in the West, but currently host to a deadly game which highlights the dangers facing freight truckers around the globe. For over 250 miles the road wanders from India to the old state of Burma passing through Nagaland and Manipur, scenes of a bitter dispute over sovereignty.

The meandering road itself presents enough of a hazard to hauliers who brave it, land slips are a commonplace event causing delays and even death. But now arson and murder travel the highway as the factions fighting for independence in the region flex their muscles in an attempt to take control of their own affairs.

According to local press reports the 25 day blockade of roads passing through Manipur, imposed by United Naga Council on 28th August, has already caused attacks on freight convoys bringing essential supplies. In the past eighteen years approximately two and a half thousand people have died as a result of ethnic and political unrest is the region which has been under both Burmese and Indian control historically.

The political shenanigans of the surrounding states are far too complex and deep rooted for western observers to fully comprehend but suffice it to say that currently all trucks travelling in the area have to be accompanied by official armed escort. Local reports indicate evidence of feuding factions supported by drug money and illegal ‘tax’ raising ventures, even from local government officials.

So now hundreds of trucks entering or leaving Imphal, capital of Manipur, have to have the cover afforded by the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the largest paramilitary force in the world, simply to ensure safe arrival, stray trucks are simply picked off and burnt out in seemingly senseless acts of violence perpetuated because the UNC apparently have not had their demands met by the Indian authorities. These apparently include the dropping of ‘wanted’ classification against some of their senior personnel, together with the appropriate rewards for information leading to their capture.

Once again, in this near forgotten corner of the sub continent, the hapless trucker with his cargo of rice, fertiliser or fuel pays the price, simply for an apparently endless political game.