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Rio attends fest in Manipur

Imphal, Feb. 15: Nagas in Manipur today celebrated Lui-Ngai-Ni, an annual seed-sowing festival in Tamenglong district with Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, who was the chief guest, sending a clear message that the community would continue to fight for a separate administration.

“Meiteis are our neighbours. They are not our enemies and we should keep it that way. It is unfortunate that Nagas are divided into different administrative zones. But, all Nagas, regardless of their place of residence, must be given equal rights and opportunities as enshrined in the Constitution,” Rio said while inaugurating the festival at Inriangluang village.

Nagaland school education minister C.M. Chang and planning minister T.R. Zeliang also attended the function as the guest of honour and the chief host respectively.

Rio said the Nagas were now educated but not yet civilised. “Nagas have a long way to go. However, it is heartening to learn that Nagas in Myanmar are doing well politically,” he added.

Lui-Ngai-Ni is a state holiday and listed as one of the tourism festivals of Manipur. It is annually organised by United Naga Council (UNC).

The UNC, which has termed the Manipur government “communal”, is spearheading a movement for “alternative arrangement”, outside the purview of the state government, for the administration of the Nagas living in the state. The first political-level talks between the UNC, the Committee for Alternative Arrangement and state government were held in Senapati district on February 6.

Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, in his greetings to the people on Lui-Ngai-Ni, said, “Let’s sow the seeds of love, peace and harmony to reap a bountiful crop yield of a peaceful and prosperous Manipur. I join our Naga brethren in the celebration of the joyous festival”.

Ibobi Singh and PCC president and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam sent greetings through press releases though they were ignored by the UNC, the main organiser of the annual festival.

The festival’s theme this year was Our Culture, Our Unity.

The main highlights of the festival were seeking blessings of the Almighty for a bumper harvest, and colourful cultural programmes. It is a day for the Nagas to make merry and strengthen the bond of brotherhood among the community.

UNC president L. Adani termed Rio’s presence as “historic”. He called for peace within the Naga family and sorting out of misunderstandings through dialogue.

He said the alternative arrangement demand would be taken forward towards “political reality”.