NATIONAL

Manmohan to hold talks with Manipur Chief Minister

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi  

Iboyaima Laithangbam

IMPHAL: Prime Minister Manmohon Singh will hold talks with Chief Minister Okram Ibobi in New Delhi on Saturday in a bid to end the impasse in blockade-hit Manipur.

Protesting against the declaration of a State holiday for June 18, the All-Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM), and the Naga Students Federation (NSF) launched an economic blockade on June 20. It has since been suspended.

Main agenda

The declaration of the holiday and its interpretation by ANSAM and the NSF will be the main agenda of talks. The holiday was declared in honour of 18 persons who were killed on June 18, 2001 during protests against the extension by the Centre of the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) to neighbouring northeastern States. But ANSAM says the government's announcement will impede hits goal of achieving a State for Nagas.

On Wednesday night, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil assured some NGO leaders that the Manipur Government would not be bypassed when the Centre took any decision relating to the State.

Representatives of the North Eastern People's Organisation who, along with T. Meina, Manipur MP, called on Mr. Patil told him about an increasing sense of insecurity among the people as a result of the ceasefire with the NSCN (IM). They said the outfit was extorting money from all vehicle operators of Manipur.

Mr. Patil told the delegation that if extortion took place within Manipur, the State Government should tackle the problem. If large-scale extortion occurred within Nagaland, the Centre would intervene.

Issak Chisi Swu, NSCN (IM) chairman, in a statement, says if talks fail with the Centre fail this time a referendum should be held on unification of Naga areas with Nagaland. Talks have been held since August 1997.

But the governments and people of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur have been opposing the demand to carve out "Naga-inhabited areas".

Meanwhile, the Zomi Students' Federation (ZSF) called a general strike in Churachandpur district from midnight on Wednesday night demanding solatium to the families of 11 Zomi tribals killed in counter-insurgency operations there. A ZSF spokesman told The Hindu that the slain tribals had no nexus with insurgents. Also vacant posts of teachers were not filled and infrastructure was lacking in educational institutions, he said.

The district administration has clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Last week curfew was enforced as the ZSF members took to the streets. There are reports that government offices were vandalised and arson attempts were made.

The Thoubal District Women's Development Organisation and some other groups have also called a strike in protest against non-availability of fertilizer. Thanks to the protracted economic blockade, it became scarce, say the women. Whatever quantum is available is distributed through police stations. Three or four farmers are sharing one bag of fertilizer.