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Rio springs formula

New Delhi, Aug. 28: Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio today recommended a separate secondary education board for the four Naga-dominated hill districts of Manipur.

The suggestion to Union human resource development minister Arjun Singh marked a departure from Rio’s original stand: a change in the affiliation of schools in these four districts to the Nagaland Board of School Education.

Rio met Singh in the afternoon and urged him “to consider” a separate board for schools in the four Manipur districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Chandel. A few months ago, the chief minister had asked the Centre to “sympathetically” view the demand by Naga students of Manipur.

On the other hand, the human resource development minister recently assured a delegation from Manipur that Delhi would not meddle in the issue.

Since the beginning of this year, Naga NGOs — led by the United Naga Council of Manipur — have been demanding that all private schools in the hill districts be allowed to change their affiliation. The demand is an extension of the campaign for the integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of the region.

Activists of the All Naga Students’ Association of Manipur made bonfires of textbooks prescribed by the Manipur Board of School Education a couple of months ago.

Arjun Singh is understood to have told Rio and his colleagues during their nearly 20-minute discussion that he would take up the issue with the Prime Minister.

“It is possible for the government of India to constitute a separate board (for the Manipur hill districts) so that school examinations are recognised and the students get certificates,” Nagaland education minister Imkong L. Imchen said.

Industries minister Khek-hiho Zhimomi and transport minister Imtilemba Sangtam were also part of the delegation.

Manipur sees the demand for a change in affiliation as a part of the NSCN (Isak-Muivah)’s design to split the state.

Rio’s counterpart Okram Ibobi Singh is also in New Delhi. Ibobi Singh intends to meet the Prime Minister, who is on a visit to Orissa.

On whether he would ever give his assent to a change in affiliation or a separate board, Ibobi Singh said: “That (affiliation) is not possible”.

He denied accusations levelled against the Manipur government that “distorted history” was being taught to Naga students in the four hill districts. The Manipur chief minister had called on the human resource development minister two weeks ago .

Rio said he would speak to the Prime Minister before making a comment. But the Nagaland chief minister did say that he was hopeful of a breakthrough.

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