Imphal, Jan. 1: The Centre’s eagerness to make the NSCN (I-M) leadership feel at home on their return to India has been counterbalanced by the belligerence of Manipur, which today declared that it would not hesitate to arrest the outfit’s general secretary, Thuingaleng Muivah, if he visited the state.
Both Nagaland and Assam have withdrawn the arrest warrants against Muivah and NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chisi Swu to facilitate their return to the country for the next round of peace talks with the Centre.
Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has, however, refused to make any such concession. “The NSCN (I-M) general secretary still wears the tag of a‘wanted man’. Muivah will be arrested if he tries to enter Manipur,” he said.
Muivah and Swu are expected to reach New Delhi on January 8 and meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee the next evening.
Union minister of state for home I.D. Swami had said on Sunday the remaining arrest warrant against Muivah would not be an impediment to his and Swu’s stay in India. “We have assured them that even if the Manipur government does not withdraw the warrant, they won’t have a problem staying in India,” he said over phone from New Delhi.
Muivah hails from Ukhrul district of Manipur and officials here reckon he might make an attempt to enter the state.
Ibobi Singh said his government would not balk from taking any step that is required to safeguard the territorial integrity of Manipur. “We will not opt for a compromise on the issue under any circumstances. We have made it clear to the Centre on several occasions that Manipur’s boundary should not be tampered with in a bid to clinch a deal with the Naga outfit.”
The NSCN (I-M) wants contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast to be brought under one administrative set-up. The Manipuris fear that the Centre might alter the state’s boundary in an attempt to end five decades of insurgency in Nagaland.
The anti-ceasefire agitation of June 2001 was a manifestation of the concern of the Manipuri community over the Centre’s stand on the Naga issue. So intense was the agitation that the NDA-led government was forced to annul the extension of its truce with the NSCN (I-M) to all Naga-inhabited areas, including the hill districts of Manipur.