|Kuki state supporters block the Imphal-Ukhrul road during a protest in Imphal on Thursday. (PTI)
Imphal, Aug. 16: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has rejected the demands for carving out separate states for Kukis and Nagas out of Manipur.
“Manipur is a very small state. It is impossible to create more states based on community lines out of it,” he said during his Independence Day speech yesterday.
The chief minister’s rejection came on the last day of a 48-hour strike called by the Kuki State Demand Committee in the state’s Kuki-inhabited areas.
Before the Kuki strike, the United Naga Council (UNC) had called a 48-hour bandh in all the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, demanding an alternative administrative arrangement for Nagas living in Manipur, outside the purview of Manipur government. The UNC held five rounds of talks with the Union and state governments on the issue but neither was ready to consider the demand.
This is the first time that Ibobi Singh has categorically stated that the demands are unacceptable. “The Kukis earlier demanded a district, now they are demanding a state. The UNC is also demanding something like a state. These demands are unreasonable and creation of more states out of Manipur is impossible,” he said.
The firm stance taken by the chief minister is expected to anger the UNC and the Kuki committee.
The UNC, which ended its strike at midnight on August 13 but whose ban on construction of railway lines is still in force, warned of intensifying its protest depending on the Centre’s reaction to its demand. “The Naga people will take forward the movement (for alternative arrangement) till our aspiration is achieved,” a UNC statement said.
George Guite, information and publicity secretary of the Kuki State Demand Committee, said their demand was Kuki statehood, nothing more nothing less. He too warned of intensifying agitation if the government failed to consider their demand.
The organisations said “prolonged neglect” of the hill districts by successive state governments had forced them to demand a separate administration.
In an attempt to persuade the Naga and Kuki organisations, Ibobi Singh said his government was paying more attention to the hill districts and more development activities were on the anvil. He appealed to the organisations to join the government’s efforts.
“The Centre is ready to extend help to the state with development projects. Let us work together and bring development in the hills,” he said.