Okram Ibobi Singh
New Delhi, Jan. 12: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today met Union home secretary R.K. Singh to discuss the possibility of a breakthrough in the Naga imbroglio. He had yesterday met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde,
Although the Centre is eager to announce the contours of a settlement as Nagaland goes to polls on February 23, Ibobi is believed to have drawn the red lines lest the Imphal valley reacts violently.
Since the NSCN (Isak-Muivah)’s principal demand is integration of continuous Naga areas, including that in Manipur, the Centre was awaiting a response from Ibobi Singh. The chief minister is said to have expressed his reservations on the Naga issue of an “honourable settlement” with the NSCN. The Centre will be cautious, too, sources said.
This is the first time Ibobi Singh has discussed the matter threadbare with the Centre. The meeting this afternoon discussed the proposals the Centre had in mind for the NSCN (I-M). Manipur is a major stakeholder in the talks and was not involved in the negotiation till now.
Besides the home secretary, senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau attended the meeting in North Block.
Yesterday, Singh had met Sonia Gandhi, Shinde and AICC general secretary Ahmed Patel, hours before the Election Commission announced polls in Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya.
Ibobi Singh’s dislike for NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah is well known. Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga from Ukhrul in Manipur, was not allowed to visit his native Somdal village in 2011, triggering months-long economic blockade by Naga groups.
However, for the government a solution is imperative if the Nagaland Congress is to have any chance to win back the state where the regional party, Naga People’s Front, is in power since 2003. But it is the NPF that has been pressing for a solution, its chief minister Neiphiu Rio becoming the unabashed spokesperson for a political solution.
“The benefits may also accrue for the other side,” a government source said. “Something (related to the NSCN talks) may come up,” an official told The Telegraph, adding that a proposal that could be offered to the Naga rebel group could be readied soon. The NCSN (I-M) has held over 60 rounds of talks with the Centre since it signed a ceasefire in 1997.
The 60 legislators from Nagaland had last year demanded a settlement and offered to “step down” if the Centre chose to put off the elections.
The Centre and Manipur government have also been negotiating with United Naga Council, the apex body of Nagas in Manipur, which has been demanding more autonomy for the hill districts with a Naga majority.
Expecting a solution, the Naga Hoho, a conglomeration of several Naga tribes and the UNC, attended a seminar organised by civil society member E. Deendayalan today to discuss the possible outcome of the negotiation.
Although the hills have autonomous district councils (ADCs), the major subjects of administration have not been transferred to them unlike similar arrangements in Assam.
Naga rebels are the only armed outfits to have signed a “ceasefire” and not “suspension of operations agreements” with the Centre.