GUWAHATI: As the Centre inches closer to sign the final Naga agreement, protestors hit the streets of Manipur’s Imphal Valley on Thursday to assert that they will oppose any move that disturbs the state’s territorial integrity.
The protestors, mostly women, went out of their homes spontaneously and took out rallies in different parts of the Valley. They chanted slogans saying “Manipur should not be destroyed”, “We are against any form of the disintegration of Manipur” etc.
Earlier, the newly-formed “Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity” had urged people, irrespective of their faith and ethnicity, to suspend all normal activities on Thursday and be a part of a mass movement to express the commitment for the protection of Manipur’s territorial integrity. The bandh-like situation on Thursday was in response to the call.
Normal life was severely affected as shops and commercial establishments downed shutters and a section of educational institutes remained shut. Chief Minister N Biren Singh had called for withdrawal of the 20-hour shutdown but it went unheard.
Sensing that the Naga agreement might create unrest in the Valley as well as in some other parts of the state, the government is mobilizing troops. It requisitioned some educational institutes for the purpose of garrisoning security personnel.
A 20-member all-party delegation, led by the CM, is camping in Delhi. It met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday night.
The declaration of “Manipur government-in-exile” by two separatist leaders from Manipur in London on Tuesday is a reflection of the growing anxieties in the Imphal Valley vis-à-vis the Naga issue.
The Nagas are settled on Manipur’s hills which surround the Imphal Valley. As the Centre is trying to work out an inclusive solution covering Nagas living not just in Nagaland but also its neighbouring Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, there is a fear, particularly in the Imphal Valley where the Meiteis (Manipuris) are in a large majority, about Manipur’s territorial disintegration.
Several influential Meitei organisations have already asserted that they will not accept any accord that hurts Manipur’s interests.
The ethnic Kukis too are equally worried as they fear the Naga pact could usher in a unique administrative set-up that would affect the land and rights of the Kukis. The Kukis share space with the Nagas on the hills with each claiming to be the owner of the land, historically.
The Tangkhuls, a Naga tribe from Manipur, have their hegemony in the NSCN-IM, which is the key player in Naga talks. The Kukis have various tribes and sub-tribes.
Thadous, the largest of them, has urged the Centre to conclude the Indo-Kuki talks alongside Naga talks. Several Kuki rebel groups are lying low following their suspension of operation agreement with the government.