Tension continues in Manipur


Imphal : The situation in Manipur continued to be volatile for the second day Friday after three students were killed and about 70 injured in clashes between security forces and supporters of Naga separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah.

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More than 5,000 Nagas had Thursday gathered at Mao, the border town between the two adjoining states of Nagaland and Manipur, to welcome Muivah, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Muivah deferred his visit to his birthplace in Ukhrul district, about 220 km from Mao, following mounting tension after security forces opened fire on his supporters, burst tear gas canisters, and baton charged the mob in an attempt to disperse them.

A large number of police and paramilitary troopers are still deployed at the Mao area with protestors continuing to build up pressure on the government to allow Muivah to visit his birthplace.

“The situation remains tense and so we have deployed security forces in strength to prevent any untoward incidents,” a police official said.

Three students were killed in police firing Thursday – Loshua and Chakho, both graduate students, and Lokho, a postgraduate student.

“This is nothing but state-sponsored terrorism and unprovoked suppression of democratic protest. We have declared all the three students as martyrs,” the NSCN-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) said in a statement Friday.

The Manipur government had earlier decided against allowing Muivah to visit the state. “Under no circumstances shall the government allow Muivah to visit Manipur,” a government spokesperson said.

The NSCN-IM is operating a ceasefire with New Delhi since 1997 with the two sides holding close to 60 rounds of peace talks aimed at ending one of India’s longest running insurgencies.

The Manipur government maintains the ceasefire with the NSCN-IM does not extend beyond Nagaland and hence Muivah’s visit to Manipur was not acceptable.

The NSCN-IM had earlier demanded that all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast, including Manipur, be integrated by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas and create a Greater Nagaland.

The demand is strongly opposed by the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

A police spokesperson said several areas in Manipur’s Senapati district, dominated by Nagas, have blocked the highway by resorting to sit-in protests leading to disruption in road communication between Manipur and the rest of the country.

“I will surely visit by birthplace,” Muivah told journalists Friday.

Six independent legislators, all tribal Nagas, resigned Thursday from the Manipur assembly protesting against the state government’s decision to block Muivah’s visit to his birthplace.

The Nagaland government is in favour of Muivah visiting his birthplace, with Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio lobbying in New Delhi.

The violent insurgency in Nagaland has claimed around 25,000 lives since the country’s independence in 1947.