UKHRUL(MANIPUR): The only political party that Shanshan Mashangva can relate herself to is the Naga People's Front (NPF) for the reason that it carries the 'Naga' tag. The 22-year-old is anxiously waiting for March 5, the D-Day, when she will cast the first vote of her life.
She has made up her mind to vote for "my people". "We are Nagas and we will fight for our rights and identity through the NPF," Shanshan told The New Indian Express.
Most top leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim or NSCN-IM hail from Ukhrul, home to the Tangkhul Naga tribesmen. The NSCN-IM is a key player in the Centre's peace dialogues with the Naga extremist groups. Shanshan is not the only one concerned about the 'Naga' issue. Yuimi Yangya (20), also a first-time voter, wants the Centre to resolve the protracted problem early.
Deuleng Ruivah (35) takes pride in the fact that he hails from Somdal, the birthplace of NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, the outfit's chief negotiator. Somdal falls under the Chingai constituency and is represented by the NPF.
Ukhrul was also with the NPF until the party losing the seat to the Congress in 2017. "I am sure it will be a neck and neck fight between the NPF and the NPP (National People's Party) in Chingai," Ruivah said.
As for Ukhrul, the locals anticipate a straight contest between the NPF and the Congress. Mangang Raman, a Naga leader from Ukhrul, insisted the Nagas elect "our own people". "Some people say there are no Nagas (in Manipur). In order to prove them wrong, we need to elect our own people and own party which is the NPF," Raman said.
While most voters are concerned about the Naga issue, there are some who want the development of infrastructure. Dr Pamreila, the district malaria officer, said Ukhrul has one district hospital, six primary health centres and one community health centre but it needs more.
"The Ukhrul district has a population of 1.52 lakh and there are 97 villages. People can't come to the district hospital from far-flung areas for treatment. I feel we need more hospitals with proper facilities besides schools, colleges, etc," the doctor said.
She was, however, not convinced the NPF can play a role in it. "Even if all of them get elected, they cannot form the government," she said.
Of Manipur's 60 seats, 20 are straddled across the hill districts. Eleven of them are considered "Naga seats" as the Nagas are in a large majority. The NPF has fielded candidates in 10 of them. "We are expecting not less than eight seats. There is the unresolved Indo-Naga issue that is dragging on for so many decades. People are with us," Wungnaoshang A Shimray, NPF's Ukhrul division president, said.