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NPF bets big on Naga problem solution

NPF president Shurhozelie Lieziestsu (right) releases the party manfesto as its Outer Manipur candidate Soso Lorho looks on. Telegraph picture

Imphal, March 26: The Manipur unit of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) today promised to “push” for a “honourable” solution to the Naga political problem and committed to work for “political negotiations” between all militant groups and the Centre.

These promises were part of the party manifesto released by NPF president Shurhozelie Lieziestsu in the presence of Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio during an election meeting for the NPF candidate for Outer Manipur at the mini-stadium of Senapati district headquarters, 60km north of here.

The manifesto release marked the launching of the campaign for Soso Lorho, a veteran Naga leader and a former minister, who is contesting from Outer Manipur.

The manifesto, however, does not talk about Naga integration or an alternative administrative arrangement for Nagas in Manipur, a demand of the United Naga Council, the apex body of the community in Manipur.

“The Manipur NPF unit will facilitate in every possible manner and push forward the peace process and the Naga political dialogue to its logical end with an honourable solution, acceptable to all at the earliest possible time,” the manifesto said.

The party’s commitment to “engage” with the Centre to bring a solution through political negotiations with all armed groups in Manipur is aimed at getting support from non-Naga communities.

The NPF also demanded that arrested cadres be treated as political prisoners.

The major promises include protection of land and resources of indigenous communities, social harmony, repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, introduction of the inner-line permit system, resolving the Manipur-Myanmar border dispute and protection of the Northeast people from racial attacks, among others.

Clearly eyeing the support of more than 2 lakh voters in eight Assembly segments in the valley, the NPF promised to include these segments into Inner Manipur constituency to give them the right to contest. The inclusion of these segments has been a long-standing demand.

The eight Assembly segments do not enjoy the right to contest in the Lok Sabha election, as the Outer Manipur seat is reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

Earlier, Rio came in a chopper from Kohima along with a NPF team comprising Lieziestsu, two Nagaland ministers, five parliamentary secretaries, three MLAs and other NPF leaders. Nagaland Armed Police and India Reserve Battalion personnel were in charge of security at the event, which went off smoothly.

The NPF has four members in the Manipur Assembly and the party’s support base is in the four Naga-dominated districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Chandel.

Addressing the gathering, Rio widened his vision and spoke of solving the state-specific problems of the Northeast. “We have formed the Northeast Regional Political Forum to work together. Let’s remove our differences and work together,” he urged all states.

Continuing his “Ibobi bashing”, Rio alleged that Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh had failed the people while serving the Congress high command. “Ibobi Singh has failed to protect the minorities. He is playing a divide-and-rule policy.”