IMPHAL: During his days as a footballer in the early 1990s, N Biren Singh had played as a defender for his team, the Border Security Force. Now, as Manipur Chief Minister, he has assumed the same role again to defend the state’s territorial integrity as well as the aspirations of all sections of the state’s population. Which is a Herculean task, given the historical animosity between all the ethnic groups in Manipur and the pressure of Naga groups .
“There are 36 tribes coexisting in Manipur. They are historically inseparable and have blood relations. Of course, there are gaps in terms of development but historically, it is one state and one country. We want to live together peacefully,” Singh told The New Indian Express.The Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) has been pressing for a unified Naga homeland called Nagalim or ‘Greater Nagaland’ by integrating the Naga-speaking areas of Manipur, besides Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Nagas have a sizeable population in Manipur. They live on the hills that surround the valley, which is home to the state’s largest community Meiteis.
Singh said his government would not compromise on the state’s territorial integrity nor would it allow any division in its oneness. For years, a gap has existed between the Meiteis and the Nagas in Manipur over the Greater Nagaland demand. Singh has been trying to bridge it ever since he became CM. And for that, he has adopted the formula of equitable development.
“Recently, I visited a remote place in the hills in connection with a public function. It was heartening to see that more than 10,000 people had turned up. I am working towards bringing the hills and the valley together by trying to give them equal development through a humane approach. I am trying to make one Manipur,” he said.The Nagas, who had always boycotted the visits of previous CMs to the hills, roll out the red carpet for Singh. His visits are aimed at ironing out differences between various ethnic groups, including Mizos and Kukis.
Singh is also working towards improving ties with neighbouring Myanmar. At the invitation of his government, Myanmar’s football and media teams visited the state. “Things have started improving in Manipur. This is evident in people’s belief about security. Thousands of them are venturing out every Saturday and Sunday to enjoy life in ‘Imphal Evening’, a government initiative,” Singh said.