Dimapur, Feb. 6: If one faction of the NSCN wants the Nagas of Manipur to “vote without fear or favour”, another is cajoling the electorate to vote out the Okram Ibobi Singh government.
Days after the Khaplang group issued a poll whip, the Isak-Muivah faction has begun projecting the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front government as the biggest hurdle in the campaign for integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of the region.
The militant group had played a role in the erstwhile S.C. Jamir government’s defeat in the 2002 Nagaland elections.
“We taught Jamir a lesson and now it is Ibobi’s turn to learn a few lessons,” senior NSCN (I-M) leader Rh. Raising said two days before the first phase of polling in 19 constituencies of Manipur.
Like the NSCN (K), the Isak-Muivah group claims that asking voters to make informed choices is not tantamount to meddling in the electoral process.
The Ibobi Singh government’s steadfast refusal to accept the militant group’s demand for the integration of Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland has forced Delhi to repeatedly postpone taking a decision.
The Naga-dominated areas are spread across Ukhrul, Chandel, Senapati and Tamenglong districts.
Raising said his organisation had made its dislike for the Ibobi Singh government very clear to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“We told her quite categorically that we have nothing against the Congress party, but we are against this government as it is trying to stand in the way of a permanent solution to the Indo-Naga problem,” the NSCN (I-M) leader said. He charged Ibobi Singh with “acting in defiance of history”.
“Even when the Centre agreed to extend the ceasefire to Naga-dominated areas of Manipur, he was the one to oppose it. One should not forget that when there was a ceasefire with the Naga National Council in 1964, it was extended to all Naga-inhabited areas across state boundaries,” Raising said.
On whether the NSCN (I-M) was forcing Naga voters of Manipur to give a verdict against the Ibobi Singh government, the militant leader said: “We have told our people who is what and the people will now give their verdict.”
He said Naga residents of the state (read the United Naga Council) had put up “consensus” Independent candidates in some constituencies to ensure that they are “properly represented” in the 60-member Assembly.
“The decision to field candidates was not taken to capture power. Our people have collectively decided to raise the Naga cause in the assembly. Not that by doing so the Indo-Naga issue will be settled, but we want to clarify our position so that the people of Manipur understand that we are not trying to grab even an inch of others’ land. We are claiming what rightfully belongs to the Nagas,” he added.
He accused most sitting Naga legislators of doing little for the cause of integration.