In a snub to the Manipur government that has banned his visit, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) leader T. Muivah on Wednesday arrived on the State's frontiers. From there, he is set to embark on a journey to his birthplace, where prohibitory orders have been issued and security heightened to avoid tribal unrest.
Mr. Muivah reached Viswema village, near the Nagaland-Manipur border, on his way home to the Somdal village in Ukhrul district.
Escorted by members of the Naga civil society, Mr. Muivah left the NSCN-IM headquarters, Camp Hebron, near Dimapur at noon after a brief prayer and arrived here to a warm welcome at the check gate on the National Highway 39. He was then escorted to the Viswema village, 25 km south of this town.
Mr. Muivah was to stay overnight at Viswema, from where he had planned to go to Somdal on Thursday, said the Naga Hoho leaders, who are coordinating Mr. Muivah's entourage.
The Nagaland police have provided Mr. Muivah with a bullet-proof vehicle, while security forces have been deployed on the national highway, a senior police officer said.
At least 50 vehicles, mostly occupied by members of Naga non-governmental organisations, including women, escorted Mr. Muivah to Viswema.
In a hurriedly convened press briefing at the NSCN-IM headquarters on Tuesday night, Mr. Muivah said he would go ahead with his planned visit to his village, which he said was agreed upon by the Centre.
“I must go there and no force can stop me. My parents died waiting to meet their son.”
He said he failed to understand why Manipur was objecting to his visit, adding: “The opposition to my visit came as a surprise...the visit is for peace, to meet family and friends and not to disturb anyone...We will not claim anything which belongs to the Meiteis [an ethnic group of Manipur], let them have theirs, we will only have what is rightfully ours.”
The Manipur government has stepped up security and clamped prohibitory orders on the other side of the Mao inter-State gate to thwart the entry of the Naga leader.
The NSCN-IM, one of the oldest and powerful rebel groups in the northeast, has been demanding a ‘greater Nagaland,' which it proposed be formed by merging the Naga-populated areas of adjoining States. The demand has been rejected by Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
“Ensure safe visit”
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is understood to have asked Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to ensure that Mr. Muivah's visit is safe, following a request by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.