GUWAHATI: Ethnic tension runs high in Manipur in the wake of Okram Ibobi Singh government’s decision to create seven more districts without consulting the Nagas (tribesmen).
A 24-hour “general strike”, three low-intensity blasts in quick succession in Naga-majority areas, an attack on a camp of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) allegedly by the Naga militants and an attempt to attack Manipur’s biggest “Manipur Baptist Convention Church” by the miscreants were events that unfolded in the state since Friday evening.
The incidents came close on the heels of state government’s drive to begin inaugurating the seven newly-created districts despite protests by the Nagas and the subsequent two deadly ambushes on the police by suspected insurgents of the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).
Some 70 heavily-armed NSCN-IM militants on Saturday attacked a camp of the IRB, which also housed the jawans of Manipur Rifles, in the newly-created Noney district, and looted a large number of weapons. According to defence sources, there was no confrontation as the personnel were outnumbered by the insurgents. The authorities had rushed
reinforcements on receipt of information about the attack but the militants escaped by then.
The NSCN-IM denied allegations about its role in the ambushes on the police and the
raid on the IRB post.
“Pointing fingers at us is part of a larger conspiracy hatched by the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. What they are doing is nothing but vote-bank politics,” the outfit, which has been in peace mode since 1997, alleged.
One of its most contentious demands is the creation of united homeland for the Nagas, “Greater Nagaland” by slicing of the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Manipur will go to polls early next year and the opposition BJP alleged that the government’s move to create the seven districts was aimed at gaining political mileage.
There were no casualties in Friday’s blasts in Imphal. One of them was triggered outside the house of NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah’s brother, who is a contractor.
The miscreants on Saturday partially damaged the Manipur Baptist Convention Church in Imphal by pelting stones at it and attempted to vandalise it but were overpowered by the police.
The “general strike” was enforced since Friday night by the women vendors in Imphal and women activists in India-Myanmar border town Moreh in protest against the United Naga Council (UNC)-imposed indefinite “economic blockade” on two national highways – lifelines of Manipur – and the ambushes on the police.
The UNC enforced the blockade since November 1 in protest against the government’s decision to upgrade sub-divisions Sadar Hills and Jiribam to full-fledged districts leading to the enforcement of a counter-blockade by the Meiteis.
The UNC claims that Sadar Hills is the Nagas’ “ancestral homeland” where “migrant” Kukis are now in a majority. Its worries about Jiribam are that it will be created by bifurcating Naga-dominated Tamenglong to benefit the Meiteis.