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Manipur starts talks on Nagas

Imphal, Feb. 6: The first round of political-level talks among Naga organisations, the Manipur government and the Union home ministry on the demand for a separate administration for the Nagas in Manipur got off to a start today.

However, representatives of both the Union and state governments refused to say anything on the outcome of the hourlong talks held at the conference hall of the District Rural Development Agency at the headquarters of Senapati district.

The United Naga Council (UNC) and the Committee for Alternative Arrangement (CAA), unlike in the past, also did not give a “full briefing” to the media on the proceedings.

This is the seventh round of tripartite talks on the demand for “an alternative administrative arrangement” for the Nagas in Manipur outside the purview of the state government.

However, this is the first time the talks are being held at the political level. In the earlier rounds, only officials of the state government and home ministry attended the meetings.

Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh sent a four-member team, led by commerce and industries minister Govindas Konthoujam, to today’s meeting, the other three being rural development minister Franchis Ngajokpa, who was elected from Senapati district, the Assembly’s Hill Areas’ Committee chairman Charltonlien Amo and Congress MLA N. Biren Singh.

The three-member Union home ministry team was headed by joint secretary (Northeast) Shambhu Singh while the Nagas were represented by a 10-member delegation led by UNC president L. Adani and CAA chairman Paul Leo.

The talks were delayed by 90 minutes, as the chopper carrying Shambu Singh could not land on time because of bad weather.

The closed-door meeting lasted 65 minutes. Though the Naga team wanted a lengthy meeting, it had to be shortened as Shambhu Singh had to return to Guwahati to deal with the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary problem.

Asked about the proceedings, Shambhu Singh retorted: “Ask the UNC people”.

Govindas also said the state government team had nothing to say. “We don’t have any comment,” he said.

Leo, however, said the sending of a political team by the Manipur government for talks was a “positive development” as the issue was political in nature. He added that talks would continue.

A UNC release later said, “The talks were concluded on a positive note with an agreement to take the parleys towards political reality.”

CAA secretary Gaidon Kamei said, “The talks were cordial. We discussed the issue at length. More than this, we have nothing to say”.

Sources said Ibobi Singh had briefed the state team to only listen to the Naga team and not talk much.

A large number of armed police and army personnel were deployed around the talks venue. But life was unaffected at the nearby Senapati market.


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