National Socialist Council of Nagalim leader T. Muivah, on Thursday put off his visit to his ancestral village in Manipur, even as three persons in a crowd waiting to welcome him across the border were killed in a stampede when the police fired teargas shells.
Official reports reaching Imphal said the Manipur police fired teargas shells when the crowd, waiting at Mao on the inter-State border in Senapati, turned restive and burnt a vehicle of the India Reserve Battalion. The police action led to the stampede. The dead included two women.
Mr. Muivah, who arrived at Viswema village from the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) headquarters near Dimapur on Wednesday, said he responded to a request by four non-governmental organisations to postpone his visit to Somdal village in Manipur's Ukhrul district to facilitate proper arrangements.
The Manipur government is opposing his visit on the ground that it will disturb communal amity. But a defiant Muivah said he would visit his village.
The NSCN(IM) has been demanding the formation of a ‘greater Nagaland' by merging Naga-populated areas of adjoining States, but the plea has been rejected by the Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments.
The Naga leader said he failed to understand why the Manipur government was objecting to his visit when the Centre had given its nod. On the Manipur government clamping prohibitory orders to prevent his entry, he said Nagas must resist its “nefarious designs“.
On the ongoing talks, Mr. Muivah said both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram had expressed their commitment to resolve the Naga issue peacefully.
Noting that the complex Naga problem might not be resolved in one-go, he advocated a step-by-step solution.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, who flew to Delhi on Thursday morning to brief the Prime Minister and the Home Minister on the situation in Manipur, returned here in the afternoon.
Late Wednesday night, four Naga organisations —— Naga Hoho, NSF, NPMHR and NMA —— appealed to Mr. Muivah to postpone his visit by a few days to “facilitate proper arrangements“.
Civil society, in a joint statement, said: “This visit should be a memorable and meaningful one, and we feel your life and service that you have are very important to us and the Nagas.”