Ibobi warns Centre against redrawing Manipur borders

Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh says Naga accord will trigger new problems in north-east.

Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh says Naga accord will trigger new problems in north-east.  

Within a fortnight of negotiating a Framework Agreement — described as a precursor to the final agreement to ensure permanent peace in Nagaland — Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has asked the Centre to shun any proposal to change Manipur’s borders.

His warning came on Saturday, a day after the statement of Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim’s Isak-Muivah faction. Mr. Muivah stressed that the NSCN(IM) leadership had “not given up” the core demand of territorial integrity and sovereignty, indicating that formation of Nagalim or Greater Nagaland was the key objective of his outfit. Within hours of Mr. Muivah’s speech at the NCSN(IM)’s headquarters in Dimapur, Mr. Singh reacted.

“Forget the Centre, there is no superpower in the world that can break Manipur,” Mr. Singh said in his August 15 speech in Imphal. The Congress leader also said the Centre’s interlocutor had not met him “as many times as was claimed.” Almost the entire community in Nagaland — across 17 recognised tribal groups — supported the demand of Nagalim.

Establishment of greater Naga homeland will entail attachment of Naga-inhabited areas of many neighbouring States of the north-east to Nagalim. At least four districts of Manipur — Chandel, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati — or nearly 60% of the State, may be acceded and thus the proposal is unacceptable to Manipur.

While it is not yet clear if the Framework Agreement provides scope for such ratification, people in the north-east are disappointed with the secrecy in the negotiations.

Manipur historian Ningthouja Malem said while he believed that every community had the right to self-determination, he had his reservations.

“To figure out who is going to inherit how much of land, all stakeholders should be invited to have a dialogue, which has not happened in this case. All the communities, including many Nagas, are in the dark about the Framework Agreement. I wish permanent peace not only in Nagaland, but to the entire community of war-affected people in the Indo-Myanmar region,” Dr. Malem said. “When we debate the issue of territorial sovereignty, other stakeholders — the Kukis, the Meiteis — may also ask for their territorial integrity.”

He said the proposed accord might trigger a fresh row in Manipur. “A huge crisis is on in Manipur for months. People are agitating for months demanding implementation of Inner Line Permit [ILP]. At the time when this protest is going on, the new issue of territorial sovereignty has come up. Political parties may now use this [territorial integrity] to incite more violence, to blur the ILP issue.”

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